Art, process and design blog of an aspiring industrial designer.

Dieter Rams (born May 20, 1932 in Wiesbaden, Hessen) is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design.”  Rams is largely considered one of the most influencial industrial designers of the 20th century.

Braun TS 45, TG 60, L 450 (Germany, 1964/1965)

He most well-know for his work while he was the head of design at Braun (from 1961 to 1995), during the company’s most successful period, and also, for his design systems approach. “Together with his design team, he was responsible for many of the seminal domestic electrical products – and some furniture – of the 20th century.”(here) During his time at Braun, Dieter Rams created the ‘Ten Principles of “Good Design” ‘ which has greatly influenced the education and approach to the design process.

Deutsch: Steuergerät (Receiver) Braun regie 51...

Deutsch: Steuergerät (Receiver) Braun regie 510 von 1972, Design: Dieter Rams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time when Rams was first appointed as head of design at Braun, a new movement in design was changing the way the modern physical world was built and being perceived. This was driven strongly by the Bauhaus School popularity and the many famous architects that were promoting this new idea of minimalism.

Instead of copying this approach, Dieter Rams took it one step further. In the past, electronics were made with wood casings and were often made to look like old, classically made, honest furniture out of natural materials (wood, wood-looking plastics, etc.). Even throughout Mies Van Der Rohe’s famous minimalistic work, simplistic, minimal spaces were enriched with heavy, lush, elaborate natural materials.

Rams moved forward to make machines look like machines. Using new and industrial materials, like plexiglass and metals, he used a similar minimalistic approach to Mies Van Der Rohe or Adolf Loos, but without rich and deceiving heavy materials. His work embraced new technology, instead of hiding it. Instead of following Mies’, “Less is more”, Rams’ said, “Less, but better.”  Rams’ design approach and ‘Ten Commandments’ were so strong that he was able to apply them to almost every household product that he designed while at Braun.

This can be seen in one of his most famous works below:

Dieter Rams put in the clear cover. So simple and obvious, but so new for the time and totally brilliant.

When he first began working at Braun, the company was undergoing a total company re-design, and this new approach fit in exactly with Dieter Rams’ uncompromising approach. After a very successful first exhibition of Braun’s new radio designs, Dieter Rams’ beliefs were confirmed that good design would help a company sell products.  Because a good design, would already be marketable.

Stylus Force Gauge – Design Dieter Rams – 1962

Stylus Force Gauge – Design Dieter Rams – 1962 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rams’s Ten Principles of “Good Design”

Good Design Is Innovative— The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Good Design Makes a Product Useful—A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good Design Is Aesthetic—The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good Design Makes A Product Understandable—It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

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 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 Long-lasting— It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail— Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly— Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible— Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

(Taken from here.)

I cannot think of anything more true, or more self-supporting or self-encompassing, about product design. (Or really, about any sort of design-type thing.)  These intentions, I think, are the things that make the entire difference between a good and bad designer. It is this simple.
(………And, of course, is not really simple at all… But, it is kinda this simple.)

This is the design bible!  If ever stuck, read these again, and ALLOW yourself to get out of your design rut!  Let these help you edit, but also let these ‘commandments’ help to dictate your solution.  Constraints or limitations in projects are often SO helpful.  So when you are at a loss, give yourself limitations, or let these be your limitations.  It can give a new sense of freedom.


His approach to design still is used and seen in so many different media:

– a weather iPhone app built based on Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles. (viaSwiss-Miss.com)

-SFMOMA (that is, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) did an film series called INSPIRED BY DIETER RAMS on pieces of design, art and industry that were immediately, significantly effected by Dieter Rams. SFMOMA also currently have an exhibit called LESS AND MORE which includes more than 200 models and objects by Rams and his team, as well as contemporary designs influenced by his Ten Principles of Good Design, such as Apple computers.

-All the products on this great pinterest board.

-“The Braun Digital Watch BN0076 is based on the original DW30 that was designed by Dieter Rams and Dietrich Lubs in 1978. Only 3000 units of the DW30 were ever produced and this design hasn’t been available in 30 years. The BN0076 features a stainless steel face, black leather band, and a 12/24 hour digital LCD with light.” (viaSwiss-Miss.com)

Fabulous interview:

For more info, check out these sources: here, here, here.
OR
Look into these awesome Dieter Rams flickr sites!: here, .

(Click on all images to go to their original webpages.)

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