Dieter Rams is a designer of mythic proportions. He has inspired a namesake documentary, his work with Braun, including a record player, juicer, and calculator, are all collector’s items, and his 10 principles of good design are the guiding force and poster-fodder for a global movement of minimalists that includes Apple’s design guru Jony Ive.
Plainly put, he’s a visionary. His most famous quote, repeated over and over, is, “Less, but better.” In a single broad stroke, it sums up why his fans believe his work stands out and remains influential to this day.
But he didn’t become famous on the back of pithy quotes. He rose to prominence making household products functional, beautiful, and remarkable. They have a transcendent quality about them—they bring a room together, feel substantial, and exude permanence in a material world defined by a rapid upgrade cycle.
He arrived at Braun as a young man two years after graduating from the Wiesbaden School of Art in 1953. Though originally trained as an architect, his work as a designer is connected to the interdisciplinary lineages of the Ulm school (where he became a protégé) and its spiritual precedent, the Bauhaus.
10 Principles of Good Design
Before we review his famous designs, read his 10 Principles of Good Design. We tie them into his origin and philosophy in “Less, But Better: Revisiting the Design Philosophy of Dieter Rams in the Digital Age.”
The Braun Era (1955-1995)
This is where he produced his world-shaping iconic designs and rose from architect to chief design office in five short years, catapulted by his famous addition of clear plexiglass to the Braun SK4 phonograph. Let’s take a look at the physical objects that inspired Apple’s design, made Braun a globally-recognized leader in home electronics, and brought minimalism into the home and kitchen.
Most Iconic Products
Outside of his Vitsoe furniture, Rams’ products aren’t generally for sale any more. Audio equipment kept evolving, as did the fans, flashlights, cameras, and coffee makers he designed. Nothing electronic truly persists—there are always tweaks to be made.
That said, his influence on the next generation cannot be overstated. He looms large over two of the most influential design minds of the last 40 years: Apple’s Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. The California technology provider has sold billions of devices, and the line of influence between the two is quite clear.
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Rams, the Documentary
Dieter’s popularity goes well beyond industrial designers and architects. Filmmaker Gary Hustwit of Helvetica fame scored the enviable opportunity to enter the famously private designer’s life and document him for the rest of us fans. The film is a testament to this larger-than-life figure, and if you’re interested you should check out our own profile on the filmmaker and his works, including Rams.
While we may now be at the end of this piece, this is just the beginning of your journey into design. If you want to know more about the Bauhaus movement that inspired Rams, have a look at our primer. Dieter Rams still looms large because of his simplicity and focus on the humans using his designs, and we’re excited to see how his legacy continues to impact the next wave of consumer electronics, furniture, and more.
Images via Das Programm and Vitsoe
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