Explore the creative origins of product designer Dieter Rams
Ideas of what can and must be achieved through good design are constantly changing depending on cultural and technological developments. German product designer Dieter Rams, however, came up with a foundation that advocates for the purist, almost imperceptible design. His 'ten principles of good design' are still considered timeless bedrocks of design theory and practice today.
Head of the design department at Braun from 1961 to 1995, Rams changed household product manufacturing during his four decades at the company. Founded in 1921 by Max Braun, the company began in Frankfurt, Germany, where in the early days there were no product designers. First devices like the famous radio and record player combination were designed by engineers. As a consequence, the designs were highly functional. That being one source of the purity of his designs as he kicked off his career there in 1955 as a young designer. He famously said, "My design ideals were shaped within the framework of Braun and it was Braun products that I primarily designed."
Rams’ grandfather who used to be a master joiner had left a great mark on him as well, his notion of composition and craft especially. In Less but better, Rams shares very personal memories like a letter he had sent to Erwin Braun, former CEO of Braun and son of company founder Max Braun. In the letter, he said, “My grandfather had no machines, he didn’t like them, and he preferred to work alone; apprentices never did things well enough. He specialized in surfaces and I learned from him how to polish wood by hand, layer by layer.” The designs of his grandfather to then teenage Rams had “reflected the economy of his way of working, they grew out of his handcraft … I absorbed it and it has been part of me to this day. I have always been concerned with the plain and the simple.”
As a young adult Rams actually followed his grandfather’s footsteps and interrupted his studies of interior design at the School of Arts and Crafts in Wiesbaden to do a three-year apprenticeship in a carpenters’ workshop.
Picking up his studies again, Rams started to develop a great interest in architecture, urban planning, and environmental design. In his first two years out of university, Rams worked in an architectural office until he started at Braun in 1955.
Prior to starting at Braun, Rams reminisces in Less but better about this moment. He said, “I have to confess that for my first two or three months, I was, and remained, pretty unclear about how a company like Braun functioned,” helping out the photographers who were tasked with the job of photographing new products in a suitable environment, a young Rams was occupied with “small, harmless (but important) interior design tasks.” His first task at Braun that entailed actual product design work were alterations for the wooden radio and photo cabinets. “So there I was back with the material that I had started with–wood. But I didn’t like it anymore,” Rams recalls. He ended up using a metal casing, which he didn’t like too much either, but it went into production anyway.
Explore the legacy Dieter Rams created during his four decades at Braun and Vitsoe. Less but better gives you a clear understanding of the ideas, criteria, and methods behind his creations and how a shifting culture of product manufacturing gave rise to universal design benchmarks. The book is illustrated with color and black and white images of classic product designs complemented by sketches from Dieter Rams.
Browse Less but better here.