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The news that Apple may acquire Beats Electronics for $US3.2 billion might seem surprising for some, but the two companies are linked in a way that some may not have realised.
Renowned designer Robert Brunner’s firm Ammunition works with Beats to help shape their products, device packaging, and brand identity.
Brunner not only worked at Apple back in the early 1990s, but he’s also known for hiring the company’s most iconic designer, Jony Ive.
“I sometimes joke that when I die, my tombstone will say, ‘Here lies the guy who hired Jonathan Ive,'” Brunner told Fast Company in September 2013.
Brunner had tried to hire Ive three times before he finally joined the Apple team in 1996, Leander Kahney writes in his book “Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products.”
The first attempt took place when Ive visited design school LUNAR Design as a student, which Brunner founded in 1984. Brunner tried to hire Ive again when he joined Apple in 1989 as director of industrial design. Ive declined because he had just started his own firm, Tangerine.
Ive finally gave in the third time.
Brunner hired Tangerine to work on a mobiliity project called Juggernaut in 1992. Here’s how Brunner described the third attempt at hiring Ive to Fast Company:
I have to admit part of the reason was because I wanted to see if I could get him interested in Apple. They built some wonderful models. When Jony came over to show them, it was a beautiful, sunny weekend in California. And when I asked him if he was interested, he said yes.
Brunner left Apple in 1997 after he became a partner at design firm Pentagram, where he led strategic brand consulting and industrial design programs for Fortune 500 companies. He then founded Ammunition in 2007.
Beats Electronics is now one of Ammunition’s most recognizeable clients, along with Adobe, Ferrari, and Polaroid.
Some critics have scrutinized Beats’ headphones for being overpriced, acknowledging that the brand power and fashion aspect is the driving factor behind their hefty price tag. Ammunition (and Brunner) played a major role in making Beats’ headphones as attractive as they are today, according to a profile of Brunner by USA Today. Among other design aspects, Brunner is responsible for the iconic lowercase letter logo that distinguishes Beats’ headphones from the rest.
Here’s what Beats founder and music industry veteran Jimmy Iovine said to USA Today about Brunner’s contributions:
Everything out there didn’t look cool, so Robert helped us create a personality, image and attitude. We wanted something exciting that could be marketed like a Guns N’ Roses or Nirvana album, like the headphones were the artists. It’s been a great collaboration.
Although Brunner’s influence may have played heavily into the success of Beats’ audio accessories, the media has been speculating that Apple is probably more interested in the company’s new streaming music service. Beats Music, which has gotten generally positive reviews since it launched earlier this year, could potentially help Apple break into the streaming music space to compete against the likes of Spotify and Pandora.
Neither Apple nor Beats have commented on the potential acquisition. But if the Financial Times’ scoop holds true, the deal could be announced as early as next week.
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