The Legacy of Dieter Rams and His Impact on Design

The Legacy of Dieter Rams and His Impact on Design
  • PublishedDecember 22, 2023

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer who is recognized as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. He paved the way for modern design with his principles that prioritize simplicity, functionality, and innovation. 

Who is Dieter Rams?

Dieter Rams is a renowned German industrial designer who worked for Braun from 1955 to 1995. He designed products ranging from radios and calculators to furniture and shelving systems. Rams was known for his motto “Less, but better”, which became a central tenet of his design philosophy.

What are Dieter Rams’ principles of design?

Dieter Rams introduced ten principles of design that are still relevant and influential today:

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.

9. Good design is environmentally friendly.

10. Good design is as little design as possible.

What can we learn from Dieter Rams’ approach to design?

1. Prioritize function over form: As Rams believed, a good design should serve a purpose first and foremost. Everything else comes second.

2. Keep it simple: Rams believed in stripping designs down to their essentials. Clear out the unnecessary elements to make the product easy to use.

3. Design for the end user: Rams insisted that the user should be the central focus of all design decisions. Design should aim to make users’ lives easier, not just look good.

4. Sustainability and ethical considerations: Rams believed in designing products that would last for as long as possible and not contribute to environmental damage.

5. Innovation: Rams was always looking for new and better ways to design products, seeking to create something truly new and different.

What other values did Dieter Rams believe were important in design?

Another value that Dieter Rams placed great importance on in design was honesty. This means creating designs that are truthful in their function, appearance, and materials, without any unnecessary ornamentation or deception. 

Rams believed that designers have a responsibility to be truthful with their products and not to manipulate or deceive users into buying something that is not what it seems. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of his most famous works.

  • Braun SK4 Radio and Phonograph: Designed in 1956, this iconic piece of technology epitomizes Rams’ philosophy of “less is more”.  It features a simple, streamlined design and a combination radio and record player.  
  • 606 Universal Shelving System: Originally designed in 1960, this modular shelving system is highly adaptable and versatile, with infinite possible configurations.  
  • T3 Pocket Radio: Released in the 1950s, this small pocket radio was revolutionary for its time, with a sleek, minimalist design that set it apart from other radios of the era.  
  • Vitsoe 620 Chair: Designed in collaboration with Hans Koppel, this chair is a classic example of Rams’ belief that good design should be long-lasting, durable, and adaptable to different environments.  

The designers that have been inspired by Rams

  •  Naoto Fukasawa: This Japanese industrial designer worked with Rams at Braun and is known for his simple, yet innovative designs. 
  • Jony Ive: As mentioned before, Ive has credited Rams as a major inspiration for his work at Apple. 
  • Jasper Morrison: This British industrial designer has also been influenced by Rams and shares his philosophy on simplicity. 
  • Konstantin Grcic: This German industrial designer admires Rams’ attention to detail and clean lines. 
  • Sam Hecht: Hecht, a British designer, has cited Rams as a key influence in his work on products that are both functional and beautiful.

In conclusion; 

Dieter Rams’ ideas and work on design have proved influential and continue to inspire designers around the world. His emphasis on simplicity, function, and innovation leaves us with valuable lessons that can be applied to any design project. 

By upholding his principles, designers can ensure that their creations work well for users, stand the test of time, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Watch the documentary about Dieter Rams. Shot by Gary Hustwit.

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