Braun design

Interview with Prof. Oliver Grabes, head of design


When you decided to accept Braun’s offer and take over as head of design, what were the positive aspects of the Brand that motivated you to say “Yes”?

Braun has a very significant design history. Good design has always been at the heart of the brand and the opportunity to continue with this in today´s environment highly motivates me. Equally important for me is the high level of quality and technical execution of Braun products – the “German engineering” aspect of always trying to develop the best product: Innovative, highly functional and built to last. Great products are a result of many great minds in many disciplines trying to achieve the best – this is what Braun is about and this is very important to me.
Braun designteam

What are the challenges you see in this new role?

Probably one of the biggest challenges for the design team is that the product development process has become much more complex than in the past. I am sure decisions could be made more quickly and directly in the Dieter Rams era than they can be made today. Not that the situation was easy back then – it required a high willingness to take risks and courage to make decisions. But today all of this is becoming increasingly global, involving a large number of teams in different locations, and design has become part of an overall strategic brand approach. Challenging is also the fact that Braun has a significant market share in many product categories. Therefore, we need to create products that are attractive to a large number of people without losing the clear communication of Braun values through our design.

What is your vision for the future of Braun design?

I think we want more clarity and greater distinctiveness in product design without becoming too polarizing. It is about connecting to people who like to own and use high-quality products with great functionality and design, creating a very positive overall product experience. Braun design had this in the past and we want to focus on this even more in the future.

What steps did you take already to start making this vision a reality?

Good design lives in a creative environment. I want to make sure that the design team is in a position to create outstanding ideas, concepts and products. We have been looking very closely on how we want to express the Braun values in the future and started to bring more consistency and clarity into our design. We are also looking into our processes, how we work best as a team and how we benefit from external insights and thinking.

Braun design has been developed internally for the last 50 years. Initially, though, the Braun brothers worked with external designers. How do you see the interaction of internal and external designers in the future?

There will be more interaction with external researchers, designers and universities, but also intensified interplay of marketing, technology and design to develop successful products in keeping with the brand. For example, we designers have in the past focused on the user and underestimated the importance of the in-store situation. We need to be aware that people go to an electronic store, see all products lined up and make the decision to buy in an environment that has nothing to do with where and how the product will be used. Looking closely on what is important to people, how they use and choose things and why they love certain brands and products is something you learn when you spent time with them. This is also a reason why I have kept my lecturing commitment at Wuppertal University, to keep a link to a different, more experimental world outside of the daily business. Looking at things from a different perspective keeps you open to new thoughts, resulting also in new approaches and product ideas for Braun, maybe some unexpected ones as well. So I am really excited to work for this lovebrand – watch out for new great products to come!