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Brand Bible by Debbie Millman

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 led the rst U.S.
patent for an electronic device, fourteen years
before the “electron” was even discovered and three
years after he had observed an eect known as ther-
mionic emission: visible, visual evidence of invis-
ible parts of matter. The discovery would become
a crucial insight in the subsequent development of
electronic devices that have similarly magical prop-
erties—devices that can eliminate distance, bring
the future and past together, and make both the
word and image visible. This magic, the ability to
see, hear, and record experiences from across great
T h e evoluTion
of Branding
elecTronics

1 7
unplugged
distances and time, has profoundly inuenced how
telephones, computers, televisions, music players,
and video games have been branded since: Early
RCA advertisements promoting the television
referred to it as a “magic lamp,” while Apple intro-
duced its iPad as a “magical device.
But legendary gures like Edison and Alexander
Graham Bell weren’t just great American inven-
tors; they understood, before it was even a word,
that branding was essential to the overall mythol-
ogy—and protability—of their new products and
services. Bell was directly involved in the creation
of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company,
incorporated in 1885, as well as the collective
patchwork of regional telephone exchanges known
as the Bell System. Edison, for his part, estab-
lished mass-production electric utilities and
displayed a preternatural understanding of how to
turn an idea into a practical, useful object. He even
got a magician’s slogan when a newspaper column-
ist dubbed him the “Wizard of Menlo Park.”
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aBove:
Alexander Graham
Bell, May 22, 1922,
with radiophone and
wearing headphones
Lef t:
An “antique” music
player from the late
twentieth century
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By the 1950s, the basic technology for just about
every electronic device we use today had already
been developed—1946 was especially momen-
tous: RCA, then primarily known for its radios,
produced the first consumer-ready television;
AT&T engineered the first mobile telephone
call; and ENIAC, the first general-purpose
electric computer, the original version 1.0, was
announced. (The IBM 610, the first keyboard-
operated computer, would come out two years
later.) And the transistor, the key component in
nearly every modern electronic device, would be
produced by 1954. If the rst half of the twentieth
century was primarily devoted to harnessing this
new technology, the second half was devoted to
perfecting the branding and promotional syntax of
these new devices using three basic themes: size,
control, and contact.
From the beginning of electronics branding, most
companies have sought to tap into the yearning
for quality design married with iteratively smaller
technology. As early as 1959, when AT&T intro-
duced the Princess Phone by boasting “Its little!”
electronics companies have realized that size
is key. With a design based on extensive market
research, the Princess Phone was created to be
a telephone for the bedroom, small enough to t
Left:
Memorabilia from the
rst half of the twenti-
eth century
By the 1950s, the basic
technology for just about
every electronic device
we use today had already
been developed.
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Television models over
the years
Unplugged: The Evolution of Branding Electronics
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AT&T 702 Princess
Dial number plate
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