With revolutionary design that met usability, the long sixties left their mark on product design, especially for home appliances and products for everyday use.
The many items collected here in Soft Electronics, more than 100, their shape and functionality, notably if considered by their use of bright signal colors such as green, beaming orange, and magnolia and white, to be added to dark browns, made these products design classics and intermediately recognizable. The emphasis is on products from the 1970s and the 1980s.
With families having higher incomes by the late 1950s and early 1960s, companies developed new products to facilitate household work and everyday tasks, to provide the housewife – or the working woman – with a little bit of luxury and helpers and finally allowing them more spare time.
Producers of such electronic tools seeking new markets and discovering the desire for state of the art gadgets came up with a complete new set of products, shapes, materials and colors. Selling to modern customers who could afford them.
The creativity and sheer mass of output until today remains unmatched, not to mention longevity and reliability. The 1970s and 1980s saw the creation of many design masterpieces, some of them present on these pages.
The gadgets and machines, all part of Dutch editor Jaro Gielen’s collection, one of the largest in the world, such a coffee grinders, blow-dryers, Aroma Disc Players, chocolate makers, egg-boilers, electric toothbrushes, and fruit juicers, to name but a few of the many fantastic ideas assembled here in hi-res pictures.
Today they are highly collectible pieces (if they come in pristine condition), hunted by fans of product design. It is also likely that several of these are probably still in use in some households in Europe. As with the design, the appliances produced then were intended to last long; actually much longer than today’s products.
The majority of the electronics presented here are German in origin.
And the brands Braun, AEG, Krups, Bosch, and Unold had a very good reputation with customers all over Europe, at least until the end of the 1980s.
The company Braun, with star designer Dieter Rams, for example, stands out as the one company that invented dozens of design classics that housed highly reliable electronic gadgets and kitchen helpers.
The heavy over sized book also features product packaging and original advertisements, that were all intended to get the attention of the female customers. As those items often were bought as gifts, and as such started a revolution in product packaging design, unheard of still in the 1950s, when a kitchen blender was simply an ugly machine, nobody really cared for.
Soft Electronics is a very rich and lavishly illustrated title, that has the focus on brilliant pictures of the appliances, usually one large photograph per page.
The amount of text thereby is limited and apart from a two-page introduction, there typically is just basic information on the designer, company, year of production and previous items of the product line in English.
The pictures easily speak for themselves; they are a feast for connoisseurs of product design, inventive plastic shapes and little tools that for decades were in use in most European households and became part of a certain popular design culture.
Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2022
Jaro Gielens. Soft Electronics: Iconic Retro Designs from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Die Gestalten Verlag, 2022, 256p.