Friday, January 6, 2012


Dieter Rams, Braun hair dryer (HLD 4), 
1970; design: Dieter Rams. 
Photo: Koichi Okuwaki
Image courtesy of SFMoMA
German Industrial Designer Dieter Rams, credited for transforming Braun (the famous German consumer product company that covets the most studied products with regards to reaching the highest caliber of design) is having a retrospective of his work at the San Francisco MoMA. 

The Ten Principles of Good Design by Rams, has been followed and is considered till this day the foundation for inventing and creating sound, intuitive and innovative industrial products that transform into timeless design. 

Steve Jobs and particularly Apple VP of Design, Jonathan Ive both exalted Dieter Rams's 10 principles of inventing a beautifully crafted aesthetic for a product—paying a homage to each criterion, each time it was within their realm to create and invent a new form of Apple gadget—ready to set the industry standards—by infusing technology with the art of design. 

Dieter Rams, Braun clock radio (ABR 21 signal radio), 1978
Design: Dieter Rams and Dietrich Lubs
Photo: Koichi Okuwaki
This precept has always guided Apple's fabric of design, since the very beginning: showcased even within the very first Apple brochure, which stated, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."  Jobs has always believed that minimalism is the fundamental secret sauce to good design. "It takes a lot of hard work," the creative genius admits, "to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions."  

And indeed, Dieter Rams couldn't agree more and believes that Apple is perhaps the only living company that exemplifies such ethical codes of good industrial design; (see video above).

The father of Apple did indeed believe at his very core that, "amazingly great" design should be employed from end-to-end; and that limiting such practices just to hardware would not and simply cannot integrate the user's experience seamlessly (as executed by Apple).  For Jobs, it is the same technology company's responsibility (like Apple has done) to conceive of a software design that's just as sound, helpful and useful as the hardware—making it "just work."

Dieter Rams, Braun coffee machine (KF 20 Aromaster), 1972 
Detail, design: Florian Seiffert, 

Photo: Koichi Okuwaki
Prior to Apple, Braun was one of the few companies celebrated for its designs.  Rams who was at the helm of Braun's creative design team for about 40 years, made the German appliance company's aesthetic outlive the products themselves, as they are studied and idolized till this day, (mostly in museums). 

The nearly 80 year old German grandfather of industrial design, has also inspirited an annual design competition for those aspiring young industrial designers who want to continue the legacy of Braun and thereby, Dieter Rams, presently on going at Braun.

The Fourth Principle of Design by Dieter Rams: 
Good Design 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.

Dieter Rams, Braun phonosuper (SK 4), 1956
Design: Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams
Photo: Koichi Okuwaki
This fourth principle really resonates with one of Steve Jobs's final comments via the recent Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson about Apple's Design Principle: "The reason why Apple resonates with people is that there's a deep current of humanity in our innovation."

Born in 1932 in Wiesbaden, Germany, Dieter Rams has been involved in (if not solely) in about 500 products, to date. Rams studied architecture at the Werkkunstschule Wiesbaden, while learning how to do carpentry, which again somewhat parallels Steve Jobs's background, in which Jobs learned a lot about building cars with disassembled car parts with his father, and then later with technology gadgets when he was just a teen. Later, Rams would join Braun in 1955 and within six years, obtained the position of chief of design, which he held until 1995

Less And More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams will be showing at SFMoMA until February 20th, 2012. It will not only cover Rams's days at Braun, but also he's tenure with Vitsoe, the English modern furniture company, he also designed for.  The exhibition will consist of over 200 pieces designed by Rams and his team, (some of which are featured at your right) accompanied by other products that have been inspired by the Ten Principles of Good Design, (which you may find in its entirety below).  To learn more about SFMoMA Presents Less And More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Ramsgo HERE.

Rams's Ten Principles of "Good Design"

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.

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 while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good Design 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.

Good Design 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly: Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the life-cycle of the product.

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. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

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