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Old 17th Aug 2014, 8:06 pm   #1
G6Tanuki
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Default Industrial design - East German style:

I'm sure you're all aware of Tom Karen - who in the late-1950s and through the 1960s was one of the UK's leading industrial designers [he was variously responsible for the Raleigh Chopper bike, the Reliant Scimitar GTE and the Bush TR130 radio].

In East Germany, he had a counterpart - Clauss Dietel - who styled a range of 'intriguing' radios and was also designer behind the "Wartburg 353" car which was used extensively by the 'Stazi" and was the East German 'Mittelklasse' transport - think of it like today's Audi A3.

See here for some interesting videos/pics of 1960s/1970s East German radio designs:

http://youtu.be/BUe2nfEyTR8

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clauss_Dietel
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Old 18th Aug 2014, 9:28 am   #2
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

Those radios (and hopefully not wading too far into a sort of flowery-phrase Pseud's Corner) do have a simple elegance that stands the test of time- they could have been sketched out in the '20's (actual technology aside!), the '60's or be currently offered in a department store or a Sunday supplement. "Quad FM3" certainly came to mind as a style simile- some may deride the looks as child-like design but functional purposefulness is my retort.

As for the cars, again, straightforward presentation- this is what it does, this is what you get. It's off-limits but every now and then, one of the big makers tries the plain functional card and it catches my attention. Must be a techie thing...
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Old 18th Aug 2014, 9:50 am   #3
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

In the 1960s/1970s Clauss Dietel did a number of wackier designs for the "Heliradio" company:

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/HELIRAD...ach-Oberfrohna

some of which very much embraced the 'space-travel' zeitgeist popular in the West at the time.

[I must admit to being fascinated by the whole issue of industrial design of consumer goods: seeing how style was blended with modern materials to generate the 'wow-factor' and then (sometimes) tuned to minimise production-costs. Ekco's use of press-moulded Bakelite radio-casings in the 1930s being another good example. Names like Raymond Loewy Virgil Exner and Wells Coates tend to only mean anything to students of design though...]
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Old 18th Aug 2014, 9:57 pm   #4
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

I'm a fan of elegant, efficient, effective production engineering (but not when taken to Ford Pinto cynical extremes!) Thus, (currently topical) the AR88 impresses me more than the Telefunken E52- the latter would have been an admirable achievement in peacetime but the former was the more rational route under duress. Similarly, the Sony Walkman impresses more than the Kudelski/Nagra IV in terms of precision mass production. The E52 and Nagra IV may be delightful pieces of engineering-for-the-sake-of-it jewellery but not really relevant to contemporary consumers.

Perhaps those bright orange spherical TVs were the equivalent of Bakelite Ekcos- consciously demonstrating the attributes of a new material (even if not always to mainstream taste!)

I suppose the themed material of the current consumer era would be industrial cardboard (sorry, MDF...)
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Old 18th Aug 2014, 10:17 pm   #5
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

You may be judging things more on mechanical appearance than on electrical sophistication. Those WWII German radios I've seen the circuits of were somewhat cruder than the allies efforts, even though the casings were ultra-elegant in engineering. I suppose their masters judged on the things they could see.

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Old 18th Aug 2014, 11:33 pm   #6
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

Certainly, the drive to minimize both number of valves and valve types within individual pieces of equipment seems to have crossed beyond necessity and into compromise- heck, Telefunken devised the triode-hexode and used it in pre-war domestic sets but the "unified line-up" diktat meant that it never appeared in, e.g. the E52, whilst the CR100 did (at least as externally-driven hexode, and apparently at least partially designed by a German emigrant).

It would be interesting to know more of post-war East German technology- it seems that the DDR was regarded as the "sci-tech" leader of the Eastern Bloc and that itself was based rather more on wartime industry remnant than the "reset from scratch" Federal Republic. It's an era/setting that intrigues me- I found out not that long ago that my German emigrant grandfather took his family back for a long holiday in 1938, well aware that this would be a "last chance". A lot of water's been under the bridge since.

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Old 19th Aug 2014, 9:57 am   #7
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

Quote:
Originally Posted by turretslug View Post
Similarly, the Sony Walkman impresses more than the Kudelski/Nagra IV in terms of precision mass production. The E52 and Nagra IV may be delightful pieces of engineering-for-the-sake-of-it jewellery but not really relevant to contemporary consumers.
I find it a bit odd to describe the Nagra IV-S thus. It's strictly functional and scarcely a piece of mass production. Very few reel-to-reel machines are relevant to contemporary consumers.
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Old 19th Aug 2014, 12:19 pm   #8
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

Some Dieter Rams influence going on there!
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Old 19th Aug 2014, 12:40 pm   #9
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

Indeed there is a congruence between Dietel's and some of of Rams' designs: in the late-1970s I had a weakness/lust for his Braun T1000 radio - so quietly cool and 'technical' in appearance but not in an in-your-face "LOOK AT ME!" way that would mean it seemed inappropriate in a typical domestic setting.

[That to me is one of the fundamentals of good design: it should never scream at you, rather it should quietly make itself known when the time is right].
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Old 19th Aug 2014, 1:34 pm   #10
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

That is number 10 on Dieter Rams list of 10 principles of design, in so many words :-

Good design:

1/ Is innovative - The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.

2/ Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.

3/ Is aesthetic - The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

4/ Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

5/ Is unobtrusive - Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.

6/ Is honest - It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

7/ Is long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.

8/ Is thorough down to the last detail - Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

9/ Is environmentally friendly - Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10/ Is as little design as possible - Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.
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Old 19th Aug 2014, 5:48 pm   #11
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

Quote:
Originally Posted by barretter View Post
I find it a bit odd to describe the Nagra IV-S thus. It's strictly functional and scarcely a piece of mass production. Very few reel-to-reel machines are relevant to contemporary consumers.
Not a denigration of the Nagra IV (and its ilk); more a poignant reflection on the fact that the precision of something like the Sony Walkman was so cheaply and widely available that the Nagra, hugely respected for its dependability in its field, was little more than a tech confection to be spoken about in hushed terms. The Nagra very much fits in with the simple, unassuming functionality that's the gist of the thread but the enormous success of consumerism and mass-production leaves it a bit high and dry amidst the short-lived, showey glitz. I once borrowed an expensively-optioned Nagra T reel-to-reel machine for a fortnight for archiving; when I returned it to the store-room groaning with the weight of similar machines awaiting disposal, I was told, hang on to it if you want, we're sick of the sight of these, no-one wants them. Such was the success of DAT at the time. I declined, thinking that it was very nice but just another thing to clog the place up. Knowing the attitude and initiative of the outfit concerned, it wouldn't surprise to hear that they went to the smelter.

I fear that the un-ageing styling of the afore-mentioned Braun radios, clocks and so on is their very undoing to most manufacturers- those metaphorical Sony Walkmans and their brethren get periodically restyled with the mantra "be out of fashion, be out of the world". If duff electrolytics didn't sign their death warrant, marketing and peer pressure would. Had Western capitalism and manufacturing been less successful and they cost ten times as much to buy, it would be a different story!

East Germany was very different- I expect that the combination of day-to-day economic reality, Marxism and lingering cultural Lutheranism would have meant that waste and profligacy would have been distinctly frowned on, and simple, classic, timeless products had a place. Oh, for a little more "durable goods" philosophy here...

Keep up the good work
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Old 21st Aug 2014, 1:05 am   #12
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Default Re: Industrial design - East German style:

And there was no incentive to produce throw-away goods, since capitalism was mostly absent.
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