DESIGN ICON: DIETER RAMS

Today is an exciting day for me because I get to write about my favorite 3D designer. His name is Dieter Rams, and he is arguably one of the top 5 most influential modern designers in the world. German born, Dieter had an unconventional introduction to the world of design. He studied architecture at Wiesbaden School of Art in 1947. He graduated with honors and transformed his architectural training into a super successful and ground breaking industrial and product designer career.

Why do I admire this man? Well, because he represented a shift in how we view product design. During the mid nineties, the fast paced assembly line was the ruler of product development. There was no such thing an HR that went around looking for fine arts students to design their relatively inconspicuous product. Design was an after thought. But Dieter believed the idea that good design was not only essential, but that it should encompass a good balance of aesthetic appeal, simplicity, and functionality. We know this was his philosophy because he wrote it down 🙂

Good design:

  1. Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  2. Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. 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. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

 

Rams’s work is particular inspiring to me because of the level of timelessness with each piece that he worked on.

For example, this radio above is ancient. But the simplicity and attention to detail gives off a youthful and prestigious emotion that exists outside the dimension of time. You could make the case to people who this was designed  just last week. It’s absolutely beautiful.

And on that note, I love Dieter’s use of white. So many designs, especially today, really try to outdo themselves with color combinations. But white is a fantastic base for any design trying to remain invisible. And invisibility I feel is really important when doing good design. Dieter stayed true his philosophy for design being unobtrusive. That is just genius.

But color wasn’t always abandoned by Dieter. But it seemed to always have a use. Nothing is there that doesn’t have to be there. For example, the bottoms above have 3 different colors. But not just for the heck of it… I can automatically assume that each of these colors have a different function, and that the red button must be some sort of stopping function. It just so happens to be beautiful, but once you consider the fact that these colors have a purpose, it becomes much MORE than just eye candy. It’s a fantastic dynamic that Rams seems to have mastered.

Rams also represents the first real great tech industrial designer. He is the pioneer of what the public thinks of tech culture in my eyes. There have been many followers of his work, most notably the super impressive Jony Ives of Apple.

The technical side of the tech revolution is really not appealing to the average person. Its numbers, algorithms, and disks. But when all of this is covered up by Ram’s good design, that complexity is now simplicity. The ugly is now beautiful. The boring is now fun and exciting. Dieter made technology desirable instead of just necessary.

Check out this talk he has with Art Center College of Design in Cali!

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