Phonosuper SK55 turntable and receiver. Designed by Dieter Rams, Hans Gugelot, manufactured by Braun AG. Frankfurt, Germany, 1956. Gift of Barry Friedman and Patricia Pastor, 1986-99-6.

An Apple Inspiration

Designed in 1956 by Dieter Rams for the German consumer products company, Braun, the SK4 Turntable/receiver is an exemplary modern design object that continues to look fresh and contemporary, despite its antiquated technology. Unlike the traditional wooden turntable boxes that came before, this simple, yet sophisticated rectangular design is made of a white metal housing with ash wood panels on the side. The hinged cover, to avoid sound vibrations, is made of a transparent plastic and unveils the buttons and operating panel placed on top next to the turntable.[1]  Rather than hiding the machine’s electrical apparatus, the plastic lid celebrated its mechanisms and gave the SK4 its nickname, “Snow White’s Coffin.”[2]   The design recalls the work of Germany’s Bauhaus movement and exemplifies the Functionalist school of industrial design, an austere yet elegant aesthetic and user-friendless that Dieter Rams and the Braun design team implemented starting in the mid-1950s.[3]

Rams’ design of the SK4 record player continues to inspire industrial design to this day. When I first came upon this object within the Cooper Hewitt’s collections database, the first thing I recalled within my twenty-first-century visual memory was an iPod. As I researched further, I discovered a world of design comparisons between Rams and Apple design. Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and former CEO, and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, famously admired the work of Dieter Rams and were very much inspired by Braun’s industrial designs.[4]  While Rams has never spoken at any length about Apple and his designs’ apparent influence on their products, he does say that “Apple has managed to achieve what I never achieved: using the power of their products to persuade people to queue to buy them.”[5]  Today’s generation of smart phones and tablet users might look at this item as a musical relic; however Dieter Ram’s designs for Braun, including this Turntable, remain a timeless example of good design.

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[1] http://www.en.ozartsetc.com/2012/01/02/sk4-record-player-by-dieter-rams/

[2] http://designmuseum.org/design/dieter-rams

[3] http://www.braun.com/global/world-of-braun/braun-design/design-evolution...

[4] http://www.cultofmac.com/188753/the-braun-products-that inspired-apples-iconic-designs-gallery/

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/8555503/Dieter-Rams-Apple-ha...

Museum Number: 
1986-99-6