Engineer Emil Rathenau founded AEG as the Deutsche Edison Gesellschaft für angewandte Elektrizitäts (DEG) two years after seeing Edison’s lighting at the Paris Exposition Internationale de l’Electricité in 1881. The company was renamed the Allgemeine Elektrizitäts Gesellschaft (General Electric Company) in 1887. It quickly expanded its operations from the production of light bulbs to the production of electric motors, domestic appliances, transformers, and other electrical equipment and the construction of power plants both at home and abroad.
Early 20th Century
By the early years of the twentieth century, the business had expanded into many areas of industrial development and transportation, making it a highly recognisable company. The firm also put a high value on architecture, employing renowned architects and designers as a critical component of its corporate identity. Otto Eckmann, for example, was responsible for several promotional and typographic designs, including the company’s appearance at the Paris 1900 Exhibition. The appointment of Peter Behrens as artistic advisor to AEG in 1907, with responsibility for the corporate identity of all aspects of the firm, was perhaps the most important. From commercially popular arc lamps, lights, clocks, kettles, and fans to promotional materials, exhibition pavilions, showrooms, factory buildings (including Berlin’s famous Turbine Hall in 1909), and workers’ housing and furniture, there was something for everyone. Such designs adopted an efficient, contemporary aesthetic symbolising the modernity of the industry that created them, an outlook that was consistent with the modernising tendencies of the Deutscher Werkbund, which was founded in 1907.
He also revamped the AEG logotype, which had been introduced in 1898 in an abbreviated form. While the company continued to play a significant economic role after Behrens’ departure in 1914, it no longer employed such high-profile designers. The company redefined its operations in the post-World War II era. It stopped producing electricity in the late 1970s. It shifted its focus to microelectronics, domestic electrical appliances, and business-oriented electronic communications technology.
Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.
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