SK 2 Radio for Braun, 1955
T41 designed by Dieter Rams in 1959 for Braun
Braun SK 4 record player, 1956, designed by Dieter Rams
Dieter Rams (born May 20, 1932 in Wiesbaden, Hesse) is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design.
Rams studied architecture at the Werkkunstschule Wiesbaden as well as learning carpentry from 1943 to 1957. After working for the architect Otto Apel between 1953 and 1955 he joined the electronic devices manufacturer Braun where he became chief of design in 1961, a position he kept until 1995.
Rams once explained his design approach in the phrase “Weniger, aber besser” which freely translates as “Less, but better”. Rams and his staff designed many memorable products for Braun including the famous SK-4 record player and the high-quality ‘D’-series (D45, D46) of 35 mm film slide projectors. He is also known for designing the 606 Universal Shelving System by Vitsœ in 1960.
Many of his designs — coffee makers, calculators, radios, audio/visual equipment, consumer appliances and office products — have found a permanent home at many museums over the world, including MoMA in New York. For nearly 30 years Dieter Rams served as head of design for Braun A.G. until his retirement in 1998. He continues to be highly regarded in design circles and currently has a major retrospective of his work on tour around the world.
In 2010, to mark his contribution to the world of design, he was awarded the ‘Kölner Klopfer’ prize by the students of the Cologne International School of Design.
Rams’ ten principles to “good design”
- Is innovative – Rams states that possibilities for innovation in design are unlikely to be exhausted since technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. He also highlights that innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology and can never be an end in and of 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 emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
- Is aesthetic – Only well-executed objects can be beautiful. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products used every day have an effect on people and their well-being.
- 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.
- Is unobtrusive – Products and their design should be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools and are neither decorative objects nor works of art.
- Is honest – Honest design should not attempt to make a product seem more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It should not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
- Is long-lasting – It should avoid being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even when the trend may be in favor for disposable products.
- Is thorough down to the last detail – Dieter Rams states that nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance in the design of a product since care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
- Is environmentally friendly – Good design should make an important contribution to the preservation of the environment by conserving resources and minimizing physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
- Is as little design as possible – Dieter Rams makes the distinction between the common “Less is more” and his strongly advised “Less, but better” highlighting the fact that this approach focuses on the essential aspects thus, the products are not burdened with non-essentials. The desirable result would then be purer and simple