A recently released documentary about the life and career of the most influent product designer of the 20th century presents Dieter Rams’ vision on design and sustainability

For more than 50 years, German Dieter Rams produced an iconic work on product design, especially on the products for the brands Braun and Vitsoe. Among the products Rams designed are stereos, alarms, coffee pots, shelves system and even a toothbrush – there are over 200 products. His legacy had great impact on the development of the design for Apple’s products.

At 86 years old, the designer is the star of “Rams”, a documentary released on November 2018. The feature film was directed by Gary Hustwit, a specialist on movies involving design and architecture, such as Helvetica (2007), and has its soundtrack produced by Brian Eno.

According to the director, the film aesthetic is based on the principles established by the German designer, guided by simplicity. “His ideas are really appropriate, in terms of living with less, but with things that last longer,” said Hustwit in an interview for the North American website Wallpaper.

“He is environmentally conscious; he talks about sustainability since the mid-70s. He is disappointed at how consumerism, capitalism and materialism have burned out. [He also mourns] the use of design as a term for marketing, instead of making the world better, which is what the designers of the post-World War II believed it to be. [Design used to be] a social aspect – teaching and rethinking the world and making it more democratic,” emphasizes the director.

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How Dieter Rams thinks design and sustainability

Ram’s work helped to make the German expression “weniger, aber besser” popular, which means in English “less, but better.” This guided his “commandments” on the “Ten Principles for Good Design”.

During his five decades dedicated to Braun, Rams developed products that became icons of industrial design. Some of the most famous are the SK-4 cassette deck and the high technology D-Series slides project. Many of them, nowadays, are part of collections around the world, including MoMA, the New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in the United States.

In the 1970s, he was a pioneer by introducing the idea of sustainable development as a need for design. In the documentary, he says that if he could go back in time, he would have chosen another profession and would not have chosen to be a designer. “There is no future with too many unnecessary products in the world,” he explains in the documentary. “The era of designing for consumption without reflection is over,” concludes.

His work is highly quoted as revolutionary by specialists from all over the world. British newspaper The Guardian describes him as “the man who all but invented consumer product design as we know it today;” technology magazine Wired affirms that “Dieter Rams’ design ethos has shaped the way entire generations think about making and consuming;” and Wallpaper understands that his work indicates the path for “sustainability and longevity in design.”

Ten Principles for Good Design

The book “Ten Principles for Good Design”, by Dieter Rams list what he considers the main guidelines for a good design. To him, “a good design” needs to:

  1. Be innovative

  2. Make a product useful

  3. Be aesthetic

  4. Make a product understandable

  5. Be unobtrusive

  6. Be honest

  7. Be long-lasting

  8. Be thorough down to the last detail

  9. Be environmentally-friendly

  10. Be good with as little as possible

Content published in January 28, 2019

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