24 Oct 2016

Good Design according to Dieter Rams

When a product designer rambles on about good design, the first thing you do is check their designs. If said designer is Dieter Rams, you can pay closer attention to his word for you will learn invaluable information (design rules). And you can take his word for it because the gentleman knows his subject. If this weren't enough, he proves it too with his immaculate timeless executions!

PCS 45 Record Player, designed by Dieter Rams for Braun (1962)

Design without the Noise

As Chief Designer at Braun (1961-1995), Dieter Rams applied the winning formula of form and function to the 'T' of technology,  with a concise, methodical, pared-down ('Less, but better'), sleek and sober design. The end result was electrical consumer goods that served beyond the mere consumer act. We had the fusion of practicality, functionality, discipline into a stand-alone style icon that we may describe as a useful object of desire. Expect no brash, tack, bells or whistles. This is a case of unadulterated and enduring design. We're talking the 90% pure cacao bar of the chocolate world: potent, punchy and a classic.

"Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design." - Dieter Rams

Mirabelle wouldn't be surprised if the likes of Apple took a leaf out of Dieter Rams' design book in their formative years or whether they themselves came up to the equation of form and function that would challenge planned obsolescence by standing the test of time, trends and fads, and never fade or date. A quick online search validates my assumption.

Clockwise from top left: Early Shaver Series, F 1 Mactron Lighter, H 3 Heater and F 26 Flash Unit for Braun

You get it: there is design and then there is good design. For the former, expect the average, the bog-standard, and the mediocre, uninspired, imitative mass-produced hotchpotch from a mass of sycophantic designer cheats.

"What Dieter Rams and his team at Braun did was to produce hundreds of wonderfully conceived and designed objects: products that were beautifully made in high volumes and that were broadly accessible." - Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple

However for good design, expect a small distinct number of measured - usually quiet - dutiful and industrious personae like Mr. Rams, busy working on their next ground-breaking design innovation. Good design is not a case of here today, gone tomorrow. It makes a statement and it lasts the distance.

(L-R) SK 4 Phonosuper (1956), and TP 2, portable transistor radio and phonograph (1959), via Wallpaper

Dieter Rams Ten Commandments of Design:

1  . Good design is innovative
2  . Good design makes a product useful
3  . Good design is aesthetic
4  . Good design makes a product understandable
5  . Good design is unobtrusive
6  . Good design is honest
7  . Good design is long-lasting
8  . Good design is thorough down to the last detail
9  . Good design is environmentally-friendly
10. Good design is as little design as possible

Source: (1-2) All photography via Das Programm, the UK-based specialist dealer of Dieter Rams' designs for Braun and Vitsoe (1955-1995), described by the company as "some of the best 20th century modernist industrial design". Photographic montages by Mirabelle. (1) PC 45 Record Player by Dieter Rams for Braun (1962). (2) Clockwise from top left: Early Shaver Series by Futterer / Braun / Rams / Muller / Gugelot for Braun (1954-1962);  F 1 Mactron Lighter by Dieter Rams for Braun (1979);  H 3 Heater by Dieter Rams for Braun (1962); F 26 Flash Unit by Dieter Rams for Braun (1963). (3) Left to Right: SK 4 Phonosuper, combined audio system by Hans Gugelot, with Otl Aicher, Wilhelm Wagenfeld and Dieter Rams, for Braun (1956); TP 2, portable transistor radio and phonograph, by Dieter Rams for Braun (1959). Photography by Marcus J Leith, via Wallpaper. (4) 'Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible', the definitive monograph on Dieter Rams' life, work and ideas, by Sophie Lovell.

Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible by Sophie Lovell

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