Braun

AB 21/ s

Dieter Rams + Dietrich Lubs

1978

Braun AB 21/ s

The face of the AB 21/s is a more reduced version of the AB 20 / 20 tb of three years earlier. Numerals are Akzidenz Grotesk. The clock was re-issued in 1982 little altered apart from the substitution of Akzidenz and dash markings for  a larger Helvetica face in lighter weight. Although Akzidenz is a late 19thC design, the preference for it amongst German modernist typographers was established at the Ulm hfg, where it had been adopted as the universally applicable form.

Otl Aicher, one time rector of the Ulm school, was employed in 1955 to renew the Braun corporate identity. So, from produt markings to literature, Akzidenz entered the vocabulary of Braun design at every level. Other 'Ulm' notions were also transmitted to Braun by the early working groups, notions that linked formal concerns to social purpose.

The tension between the use of these 'historical' numerals and the more high-tech form of the AB 21 s body dramatises a crises in functionalist design arising from a contradiction between its social and commercial purpose. Arguably by 1978, when the AB 21/s was issued, the tension had already resolved. Braun functionalism found itself eclipsed by a kind of technological expressivism and its social commitments set aside. In this light, the more reconciled relation of face and body characteristic of the AB 22 signals the entrenchment of conservatism in Braun industrial design, whilst the AB 21/s appears as a poignant late '70s admission that the game was up...

In this connection, see also Florian Seiffert's KF 20/21 coffee filter design of 1976. 

a large 1.5 v battery powers a sweeping second hand and truly startling alarm

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