Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design. Many of Rams’ designs—coffee makers, calculators, radios, audio/visual equipment, consumer appliances and office products—have found a permanent home at many museums over the world, including MoMA in New York.
How does Rams’ define good design?
- Good design should be innovative – It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty just for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must clearly be seen in all of a product’s functions. Current technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.
- Good design should make a product useful – The product is bought in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose, in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimise the utility of a product’s usability.
- Good design is aesthetic design – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
- Good design will make a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.
- Good design is honest – It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
- Good design is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
- Good design is long lived – It does not follow trends that become out-dated after a short time. Well designed products differ significantly from short-lived, trivial products in today’s throwaway world.
- Good design is consistent in every detail – Nothing must be arbitrary. Thoroughness and accuracy in the design process shows respect towards the user.
- Good design should be environmentally friendly – Design must make contributions towards a stable environment and sensible raw material situation. This does not only include actual pollution, but also visual pollution and destruction of our environment.
- Good design is as little design as possible – Less is more – because it concentrates on the essential aspects and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.
Many people say it is obvious that Rams’ designs have been influential on Jonathan Ive of Apple, designer of such products as the iMac, iPod, and iPhone, as can be witnessed particularly in the iPhone’s calculator application, whose design is based on the Braun ET66 calculator designed by Rams.
The Design Museum in London are holding a Dieter Rams’ exhibition between 19th November 2009 and 9th March 2010. The exhibition will showcase Rams’ landmark designs for Braun and furniture manufacturer Vitsœ, examine how Rams’ design ethos inspired Braun’s entire product range for over 40 years, and assess his lasting influence on today’s design landscape.