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A Prenatal Story

Erik Olsson was a member of the original design team. I asked him to tell me of his memories of the project. This is an e-mail response I received from Erik Olsson in Sweden who was involved with the Ericofon design. As you can see (if you read the book excerpt) he met Ralph Lysell shortly after Ralph left Ericsson
At the end of this page is a photograph he sent me of his work bench with some early clay models on it.

Ericofon – The Prenatal Story.

 Told by Erik I Olsson.

 In the last couple of years of World War II, I was working as a design engineer in a small Stockholm company that produced cinema and theatre machinery. In early –45, they were working on a proposal for an airborne reconnaissance camera. The project group included an L. M. Ericsson engineer, who introduced me to the man who made the presentation drawings, airbrush renderings on black carton. He was Ralph Lysell who, tired of designing telephone exchange equipment - mostly rectangular boxes and cabinets - had quit his designer job at L. M. Ericsson and set up a design studio in central south Stockholm. He was building up a small staff, and when asked to join, I gladly accepted, as my present employer seemed to be on its last lap. I started at my new job on May 8 1945, the very day that the Germans surrendered Norway. After this date, any number of cameras were available on the market for almost nothing, and as the need for them had vanished, the camera project died. So did the theatre equipment company.

 One of the several projects on schedule for the new company AB Industriell Formgivning (Industrial Design Inc.) was re-design of the 1941 model one-piece telephone, patented by Ralph Lysell and his boss. It looked as being designed by a committee. It probably was, considering the decades-old organization model at L. M.

 Ralph engaged a young art student for the basic clay work at the studio, doing the final touches himself. Having an engineering degree, I became the square-and-ruler man of the team. Ralph encouraged us to participate in the design process, workshop-like, so we all worked with sketch pad, drawing board and clay bench. The telephone job started with my juggling the components to fit in the volume roughly defined by Ralph, and thereafter to get the others to keep the envelope outside the innards. The picture, shot during a coffee break shows a number of clay studies. The basic arrangement was settled, and flutes and other forms of decoration were tried. In the end, starting with an all over plain smooth surface, with a stroke of his thumb Ralph added the finger groove at the bottom end of the stalk. This diminished the apparent height of the upright member, at the same time providing a good grip for the hand. We felt that nothing better could be achieved, and the solution was accepted and delivered to L. M.

 I do not remember whether the names ”cobra” or ”ericofon” were coined at that time, we sometimes referred to it with a nickname that in English could be ”the bull’s balls”. The Ericsson company name is most certainly the origin behind the ericofon logo, not my first name, although sometimes it feels good to say it. Also, having been part of the team creating ”the design of the century” gives a good feeling. Ralph did not get that satisfaction, he died 12 years before end of the century.

 Ralph was not a furniture and cutlery designer, his interest and force was in technical products, and as there was not many more machinery or household appliances left to design in Sweden, and certainly no more telephones, he closed shop summer –47 and the tow of us went to Paris, France and subsequently to Norway. We did not hear of what became of   our delivery to L. M. in winter 1945 –46, it probably went through the mill of detailing, tooling and board meetings before being produced and marketed.

 The birth of the ericofon in 1953 went unnoticed by us, being abroad and not being told. The pregnancy period was long, the conception taking place seven years earlier. The father was Ralph Lysell.

Click on the picture below to see a larger image:
Ericofon models on a work bench



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