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In tribute to Mr. Rams

THe Design world owes a debt of deep regard to Dieter Rams for his vision, influence and principles about what “good design” really is.

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I am just back from a trip to San Francisco where Lunar’s head office
is and over a three-day trip there I had the chance to visit SFMOMA, San Fran’s
Museum of Modern Art. Awesome building even more awesome exhibition of work by
Dieter Rams. A must see for any industrial designer, just as this book – Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible,
is a must read. In fact below is a book review that I wrote about that very
thought.

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

 

One
reality is that if you are an industrial designer, it’s time to make room for a
new book—this one is going to take up some space. A deservedly thorough and
appropriately thick tomb, this new book by British design historian Sophie Lovell profiles Dieter Rams’
life and work and is simply is a must-have for any serious design library.

 

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As
one might expect from a designer of Dieter Rams’ stature, he has a philosophy: 10
principles that govern great design (see the next page). This book is titled
after his 10th principle: “Good design is as little design as possible,” It is
a fascinating review of what a life in design can be and the legacy it can
leave.

 

You
see, Dieter Rams is a living legend in design. Products he designed in the
1960s are still manufactured and sought after today. Vintage versions of his products
are coveted and collected.
He is
rightfully a hero to many in design, including me. I own no less than a dozen
Braun classics, including the cool Braun calculator with the M&M keys that
never goes out of style and has worked for me for over 20 years straight,
without a battery. Movie soundtracks at my house are powered by a Rams-designed
vintage ADS R1 receiver, which still works as well as it did when I bought it
new, in the 1980s.

 

Dieter Rams was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1932. In 1955 he
joined Braun, a German electronics company where he and his colleagues were
able to create some of the world’s most notable designs of the 20th century. He
became head of design and stayed at Braun until 1995, 40 prolific years.
The book begins with an introduction by the current
head of design at Apple, Jonathon Ive, who gives deserving and respectful acknowledgement
to Rams in an interesting and very personal forward. Confirming what we already
know, that the two are kindred spirits in approach and execution. Ive
acknowledges the influence, especially in the case of a particular Braun juicer
his family owned, that helped to shape his view of great design. In addition to
Ive,
Naoto Fukasawa, in later chapters Sam Hecht and Konstantin Grcic are examined
relative to the influence of this design master.
 

 

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Dr. Klaus Kemp,
the head of exhibitions at the Frankfurt Museum of Applied Arts
,
profiles Rams’ early life and
training as an architect. The book goes on to discuss his work, philosophy and
theory in an interesting and well-crafted way. No critique to be offered here about
the content or the writing. This read is more than worth the investment of time.
Also, the photographs by the German photographer Florian Böhm provide delicious
visual interludes. Three major sequences—the first a profile of the Braun
archive in Kronberg, Germany; the second, Rams in his home and his home itself;
and the third, intimate close-ups of details and features of Rams’ products—are
well placed among exquisite full-bleed images. In addition to the Braun work,
the book also covers work he did for the furniture company Vitsoe and profiles
his home and work studio, all offering further insight to Rams and his point of
view.

 

As
is fitting in such a tribute, the book itself is a beautiful thing. Designed by
Kobi Benezri, it is wonderfully detailed and well-crafted. The text and black-and-white
images are fabulously printed on uncoated Munken paper. The four-color images
are printed on a bright-white coated stock, which makes them rich and inviting.
The binding detail and texture of the cover are an
appropriate nod
to a designer who himself obsessed
over this kind of exquisite detailing.
In
terms of pure enjoyment, the book offers a bountiful visceral collection of unexpected
imagery, including of workshops and back hallways filled with equipment,
products and work areas. These candid photos create a kind of understanding
that there is a need in design to touch and feel and build.
 

 

While
this beautifully designed book is about the life and philosophy of the man,
perhaps the best take away concerns not Rams at all
but rather the idea that Braun uses design as a successful business strategy
and that Rams and his colleagues were the caretakers and facilitators of this
strategy. Dieter Rams was a master in the boardroom as well as the design
studio.

 

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Bottom line, as a reviewer
this one receives my strongest recommendation. Put it on your holiday gift list
as a must-have, and revel in its exciting, respectful and honest profile of one
of the world’s most talented industrial designers ever.

 

Dieter Rams’ 10 principles for good design

 

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1. 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.

 

2. 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 whilst disregarding anything that could possibly
detract from it.
 

 

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3. 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.

 

4. 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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5. 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.

 

6. 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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7. 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.

 

8. 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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9. Good design is environmentally friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the
environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution
throughout the lifecycle of the product.

 

10. 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.

 

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Back to purity, back to simplicity.



 

 

 

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About the author

Mark Dziersk is Managing Director of LUNAR in Chicago. LUNAR is one of the world’s top strategic design, engineering and branding firms.

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