Back in the 1950s and 60s, Braun made tech products, from radios to blenders, that were the stuff of the young Jonathan Ives' dreams. Nowadays, it largely makes shavers that are highly functional, but lack Bauhaus-influenced, austere sexiness.
Even so, you can't deny it's a brand with a massive design heritage, and that's why its BraunPrize for young designers is of interest to T3. We went to Germany to watch the shortlist announcement, vote (yes, we correctly picked the winners) and wallow in nostalgia at the Braun design museum.
Held every three years - or triennially, if you prefer - the BraunPrize 2015 took the theme of, 'Putting the Extra in Ordinary'. And it duly delivered a cavalcade of normally mundane objects, from door handles to windscreen wipers to fuseboxes, reimagined with a dash of design magic.
As you can see, there were one or two entries (2,510 to be precise)…
There are prizes in two categories, the long-standing Student prize, plus the more recently added Professionals/Enthusiasts trophy - which seems to us to pit full-time, paid industrial designers against men in sheds with too much time on their hands, but there you go.
The ceremony was at Braun's HQ in Kronberg, near Frankfurt. This complex of impeccably architectured glass, concrete and steel buildings also houses a museum where key products from the brand's illustrious history can be viewed. It might be pushing it a bit to say that a line can be picked out from the era-defining, market-changing work of Braun's Dieter Rams in the late 1950s and 60s to the entrants to the BraunPrize. But damn it, that's how Braun sees it, so what the hell.
Perhaps slightly less slickly, BraunPrize 2015 was hosted by these two guys, with a distinct air of the people announcing the votes of the Lithuanian jury on Eurovision.
By this point, the original 2,510 entries from 67 countries had been whittled down to two shortlists of three. In the Student prize, these were Wiper Barricade Lights from a gaggle of incredibly young looking Chinese students, Jong Chan Kim and Daewoong Park of America's Noah Balloon, and Roel Deden's 3D-printed prosthesis, logically named, Printhesis.
Wiper Barricade Lights use LEDs on your car's rear window wiper to signal a warning to oncoming traffic after an accident. This seemed clever as opposed to necessarily all that useful, given the large number of road emergency lights already available.
Noah Balloon can only be described as a big, red, self-inflating ballon, in a box. After a natural disaster, Noah Balloons would be released to float, tethered from their containers, signalling to survivors where to gather to take shelter or safely evacuate the area. Uh-huh.
Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the winner here was Roel Deden's Printhesis. The model shown was specifically for jewellry making but the 3D-printed design could be easily customised for different hobbies and tasks, and is designed to be comfortable, easy to fit, and cheap, in contrast to existing prosthetic limbs.
The Professional and Enthusiast BraunPrize was even more hotly fought, with James May, Giles Sparrow and Dan Sailsbury's Fuse, which repositions the humble fusebox as a smart device taking on Matts Lönngren's connected - and rather stylish - lifejacket, Ahti X1 and Sonno Mocci's Let Me In, a door handle incorporating a safety chain.
The latter seemed to cause the judges a certain amount of consternation, with questions from the floor seeming to basically suggest that they doubted it could, strictly speaking, work as a security device, due to the length of chain required and the fact that the chain would naturally fall off when the door handle was turned. This then raised the rather obvious question, 'Why the hell did you shortlist it, then?"
As the prototype on show was a non-working one, this was hard to prove or disprove. Let Me In is undeniably rather beautiful, mind.
This left the way clear for Finland's Ahti X1 (pictured with dapper inventor Matts Lönngren) to scoop the top prize.
This connected lifejacket comes in a range of stylish colours, is self-inflating - the inflatable part being a uniform and not-so-stylish orange, for visibility purposes - and packs GPS and a choice of popular maritime radio connectivity options. Haptic feedback reassures the wearer that help is on the way, while an app shows rescuers their location, how long they've been in the water and suggests the safest course to plot in order to pick them up.
Lönngren explained that the chic colours and slimline (pre-inflation) form were to encourage people to actually wear the lifejackets in the first place, and that the name was, "A type of sea monster from Finnish myths… And also to make people say, 'So why is it called that?'"
Both winners struck T3 as the best products on the shortlists, and were the ones we cast our votes for, since you ask. Prizes were described as 'about $15,000' for the winners, with runners-up prizes of 'about' $10,000 and $5,000.
The judges were Professor Oliver Grabes (Braun Global Design Director), Stefan Schamberg (Director R&D Global Braun and Managing Director R&D P&G) and external design experts Vivian Wai-Kwan Cheng (industrial design), Heather Martin (Vice President of Design at Smart design) and industrial designer Benjamin Hubert, pictured here looking very 'designery'.
His tip for future entrants? "As a designer and as one of the judges, one of the biggest challenges with creating something new is the actual newness. There were certain categories this year where we saw 10 to 12 entries that were all the same kind of thing… but there was only one lifejacket. There was only one emergency rescue balloon. Okay, you can say they're a bit niche but they had their own space to operate in. So really do your research well and find your space."