I have become increasingly obsessed with the work of Dieter Rams, and I think that this is a good time to introduce his work to the students. The second project of the semester is a mobile movie screen and our design strategy hovers somewhere between architectural design and product design. Rams studied architecture as well as carpentry and worked for the architect Otto Apel, but is best known as chief of design for the electronics company Braun, a position he kept from 1961 until 1995. The work of Rams revolutionized his industry and has had an obvious influence on great design teams such as Jonathan Ive and apple.
Ram’s was also a professor of design and while there he came up with his 10 principles of design. These are what I think will be most helpful to the students at this time:
Ram’s Ten Principles to “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.
- 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.
- 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.
- makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 life cycle of the product.
- 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.
Something to strive for… Below is an excellent video of Dieter Rams describing his process.