This Week on DnA: Apple Buys Beats; But Who Designed the $3B Brand? With Robert Brunner, Barbara Bestor, Bianca Bosker

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Apple has bought Beats for three billion dollars. What did they buy exactly? A lot of style for starters. We’ll hear from the designers behind the image.


Apple has bought Beats Electronics for three billion dollars. What did they buy exactly? A lot of style for starters. On this show we hear from two designers who helped create the company’s image: Robert Brunner, designer of the now iconic headphones; Barbara Bestor, architect of the company’s new HQ in Culver City. And tech reporter Bianca Bosker speculates on the “pizzazz purchase” and what it says about Apple’s MO.

Robert Brunner, Designer of Beats Headphones 

Robert Brunner, founder and head of Ammunition design and branding company in San Francisco, has been Chief Designer since Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre founded Beats By Dr. Dre back in 2006. Now Ammunition will be ceding the branding to Apple, a bitter-sweet transition for Robert Brunner, especially as he was once Chief Designer at Apple and was responsible for hiring its now famed designer Jonathan Ive.


On this show, Robert talks about his role in developing the now iconic headphones — “I drew a single curved line from one ear to the other, an arc, and that’s how the original product was born, this notion, of this very simple singular surface that ran from one side of the head to the other.”

He also talks about working with Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, two highly decisive, creative and driven music producers who, he says, wanted a headphone that was intended to channel their music, not please audiophiles. “The real secret weapon,” he says, “was Dre’s and Jimmy’s ears; because they created much of the popular music out there and they knew exactly how it was supposed to sound.”

Read more about Robert and Ammunition’s work for Beats and other companies, here.

Barbara Bestor, Architect of Beats HQ in Culver City

Also on the show, LA architect Barbara Bestor, who has been working with Beats on their space design for the past four years, during which time the company has grown from 16 employees to 600. Now they have moved into a new space in the Hayden Tract area in Culver City.

The Beats space is light, mostly white, with dashes of color and splash like a brass staircase and a “Medieval library.” Staffers work mostly in sunlit, open plan areas; they share a large concourse, café, and meeting spaces in the heart of building. There are high-quality recording suites and meeting rooms lined with blow-up views of Los Angeles by renowned photographer Iwan Baan. It features oak floors and furniture by young Modernist designers; and it’s already buzzing with the life of a small town.  But doors opened for business just as the news broke of the deal, begging the question: will the company stay in its new digs or move to Cupertino? Find out on this show.

Bianca Bosker, Tech Reporter

In all the talk surrounding the Apple-Beats deal, people agree that Apple has purchased that elusive thing called “cool,” namely the headphones that have achieved the same must-have status as Apple products themselves, not to mention, from some, the same criticism: high design, high price.

Huffington Post Newsroom HeadshotsBut still, since the announcement of the Apple-Beats deal, tech watchers have been scratching their heads over, why?

They were hoping Apple would fill in the blanks at their Worldwide Developers Conference this past Monday. Did they? Bianca Bosker, Executive Tech Editor of the Huffington Post and author of Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, reports that the company was “surprisingly mum about the Beats deal. . . though they did take time to show off their new corporate recruit. . . Dr. Dre.”

She speculates that Dre himself, and Jimmy Iovine, are the real reasons behind the purchase, saying this is a “pizzazz purchase.”

Iovine and Dre, below (Photo credit: Kevin Mazur), “have the pulse of the music industry, they understand what the mainstream audience wants” and the deal follows “a string of hires by Apple, pulling from people in the world of fashion far beyond technology, including the CEO of Burberry former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, and people from Nike, who don’t just know how to build good laptops but really understand what makes people pay extra for a device, what gets people hooked.”

Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre Unveil Beats By Dr. Dre 2011 Holiday Product Line-Up