Who is Dieter Rams?

Bob Borson —  May 8, 2011 — 26 Comments

So who is Dieter Rams? I know who he is but I asked around the office and nobody else did – that’s sort of shocking considering what I do for a living.

“As designers we have a great responsibility. I believe designers should eliminate the unnecessary. That means eliminating everything that is modish because this kind of thing is only short-lived.”

Dieter Rams – interview with Icon Magazine

 

Dieter Rams and his designs

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Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer who trained and worked as an architect for a few years until he joined the electronic devices manufacturer Braun. Within a few years he became their chief of design, a position he held for almost 35 years. During his tenure, he and his team designed many iconic devices ranging from record players to furniture to storage systems.

He is also credited with the memorable phrase “Weniger, aber besser” which basically translates into “Less, but better”. Dieter Rams used graphic design, form, proportion, and materiality to create order within his designs. His work does not try to be the center of attention, rather he allows his work to become part of the environment through precision and order.

Dieter Rams is also very well known for his Ten Principles for Good Design. If you are not familiar with them, I have compiled them here – information courtesy of Vitsœ, who has compiled a complete 70 year timeline of the life and designs of Dieter Rams.

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.

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MPZ 21 multipress citrus juicer, 1972, by Dieter Rams and Jürgen Greubel for Braun

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 emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

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RT 20 tischsuper radio, 1961 by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

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T 1000 world receiver, 1963, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design makes a product understandable

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

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Cylindric T 2 lighter, 1968, by Dieter Rams for Braun

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.

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L 450 flat loudspeaker, TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder and TS 45 control unit, 1962-64, by Dieter Rams for Braun

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.

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620 Chair Programme, 1962, by Dieter Rams for Vitsœ

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.

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Dieter Rams FS80 Television Set

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.

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Dieter Rams 606 Universal Shelving System

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.

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L 2 speaker, 1958, by Dieter Rams for Braun

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.

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Many believe Dieter Rams is Jonathan Ive’s (Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple) big influence. When the first iPod is compared to the Pocket transistor radio, one can see the similarity in the order and proportion of the two products.

Dieter Rams T3 Pocket Transistor Radio

Phaidon is releasing a new book on Dieter Rams in June this year (2011)  called Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible – and the foreword to this book is writen by Jonathan Ive. The book looks remarkable and I know I will be getting a copy for my library. If you’re interested in pre-ordering your own copy, I’ve provided an Amazon link below.

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dieter rams design as little as possible from phaidon

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I apologize for the self-indulgent post, but I do hope that in the end, you think this post was as interesting as I did – there are few people who have designed so many pieces that are this classic and timeless.

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even better

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  • http://palereddot.blogspot.com/ Arham Md Ali

    This post is very clean and simplistic that I’m sure even Mr Rams himself would approve. Anyway, it is amazing how Rams’ design survives the passage of time, even the first iMac does not age as well as them. 

    But I do feel Jony Ive is getting more creative as time goes on. Maybe due to the almost limitless creative freedom now that the whole world knows how talented of a designer he is.

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  • marcusttaylor

    Wow, Ive is one of my hereos, and this bloke needs further study by me. I now routinely ask myself think what would this look like if Ive did it?  Thank you for this introduction, I also heard him mentioned in the Jobs biography.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      my pleasure :)

  • Dianne

    Typos in paragraph about Jony Ive: belief should be believe, ipod should be iPod. Great post.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      if you want to get picky, “belief” wasn’t a typo – it was the wrong word.

      Other than that, thanks

    • http://twitter.com/etroxel Evan Troxel

      You also have Jonny Ive’s name spelled differently in the 2 instances. So now, I’ve provided you with another option :)

      • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

        I don’t know what your talking about – go back and check
        :)

  • http://twitter.com/etroxel Evan Troxel

    I’ve got a slightly architecture-modified version of this that our studio put together. I’ll post it today. I’d love to get your feedback on it. 

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  • Studio SC

    Great post, Bob! We included it in our Weekly Roundup: http://blog.studio-sc.com/post/5455066812/weekly-roundup

  • D.

    Great post about Dieter Rams – he has been an inspiration of mine for years!
    I keep a quote by him posted in my studio to remind me to Keep it Simple (we all have our moments!)
    Thanks for sharing Bob!

  • Gabriel Kochen

    If I may…his phrase is written “Weniger, aber besser” i think you switched the “n” with the “i”…love your blog!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks for both! I went in and fixed my typo (hate when I miss something like that!)

      Cheers,
      Bob

  • Gabriel Kochen

    If I may…his phrase is written “Weniger, aber besser” i think you switched the “n” with the “i”…love your blog!

  • Alexander

    http://www.facebook.com/Dieter.Rams
    seems good for updating.

  • http://twitter.com/TheDecorGirl Decor Girl

    Excellent post Bob. Can we get those 10 Principles on a poster to hang in the studio? Or maybe as an iPad2 cover (thinking were others might see it).

    Less but better, much better should be tattooed across the backs of our hands as we create. Too many designers and architects have garbled up designs with the “more is better” concept. This only works with bank accounts.

    Less is always more esthetically pleasing though sometimes more painstaking to achieve. To make something better is always my top priority as a designer. Far too often some get caught up in the “making” aspect and the design suffers.

    Dieter Rams = Modern + Classic

    Back to the Basics never gets old.

  • http://SLS-Construction.com SLS Construction

    Great post Bob & I can easily see why those that love modern homes love this guy & those 10 principles which I fully agree with in many cases

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Sean,

      The 10 principles are incredibly relevant today and I find his designs as fresh today as they were 50 years ago. His impact on popular culture can barely be measured – just look at any of the products Apple is producing for evidence.

      Cheers