A design icon: The Phonosuper SK 4: Keep an eye on your favorite record
Clean lines, clear control elements: Braun’s Phonosuper SK 4 heralded a new era of product design in the 1950s. It was given the nickname “Snow White’s coffin” due to the plastic cover made from PLEXIGLAS®.
Record players are sensitive. Small dust particles and dirt can easily damage the needle and the record, so a cover serves a very useful purpose. But fans of the devices – which are now trendy again – also enjoy being able to watch the record playing. Electronics manufacturer Braun found a solution for this problem in back in 1956: The Phonosuper SK 4 radio and record player was equipped with a transparent cover made from PLEXIGLAS®.
Pioneering product design
Until the 1950s, record players were large and heavy devices, often made from dark wood. Styled by the renowned designers Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams for Braun AG in 1956, the Phonosuper SK 4 was the exact opposite, attracting attention with its clean and simple design. The white painted metal body and transparent cover lent the product a classy yet modern look, while the wooden side panels harked back to the interior design style of the time.
Functional design innovation
The designers focused on the functional properties of their radio and record player, increasing the user-friendliness by arranging the control elements clearly on the top of the device.
©picture alliance / ZB
Pioneers of design
The designers at Braun AG, Dieter Rams and Hans Gugelot, developed a new generation of electronic devices that attracted worldwide attention. Their designs were based on theories from the Ulm School of Design. Alongside the Phonosuper SK 4, other renowned designs from the product and furniture manufacturer include the Sixtant 1 shaver, the T 1000 world receiver and the LE 1 electrostatic loudspeaker.
A metal cover was originally designed for the Phonosuper SK 4, but was found to rattle at high volumes. Rams therefore suggested a PLEXIGLAS® cover. The branded acrylic glass from Röhm & Haas, a predecessor company of Evonik, provided a clear view of the turntable and impressed the designers with its excellent resonance behavior, which is why it had been used to produce musical instruments since the 1930s. The SK 4 was a pioneering product design and had a big impact over the following decades, when the use of PLEXIGLAS® became ever more popular in architecture and design. Incidentally, due to its PLEXIGLAS® cover, and similar to the Messerschmitt cabin scooter, the Phonosuper SK 4 became colloquially known as “Snow White’s coffin”. This term was originally coined by Hans Gugelot, who viewed PLEXIGLAS® as a fad – we know today just how wrong he was.
Covers like the one used on the SK 4 were originally constructed from cast PLEXIGLAS® sheets that were bonded together; these were later largely replaced by injection-molded PLEXIGLAS® compounds. This process was more economical for large quantities, while giving designers almost total freedom to realize their accented corners and edges.
©Evonik Industries AG, Konzernarchiv Hanau