Dieter Rams was born in Wiesbaden, Germany 1932. In 1955 he began work at Braun, and by 1961 he had risen to become head of design. He remained there until he retired in 1995. Dieter Rams was strongly influenced by the presence of his grandfather, a carpenter. Rams once explained his design approach in the phrase "Weniger, aber besser" which translates as "Less, but better"While at Braun, he designed and oversaw some of the most influential products of the twentieth century, including radios, shavers and kitchen appliances. At the same time, he designed furniture for a small company, Vitsoe + Zapf (later Vitsoe), which is still in production today.We'll let Dieter himself take it from here: "Early in my career I learnt that ‘God is in the details’. It’s perhaps easy to sketch an idea, but the approximation to perfection, that genius of inspiration and ability to execute meticulously comes from the hard work involved in making all the tiny curves and interfaces, angles, materials and even technology work together in harmony. Detail upon detail - enable communication, aiding transparency and closing the gap between objects and subjects, use and product. This simplicity is the product of obsessive attention to detail."
02. Good design makes a product useful
It's appropriate, then, that Dieter Rams’s first great design success involved not only a detail, but a transparent one: the acrylic lid of the SK 4 super phonograph. Nicknamed ‘Snow White’s Coffin’, the lid of this record player was entirely transparent, so that users could see the record within spinning as it played. This was an inspired idea that not only helped to ensure the great commercial and critical success of the SK 4 as a product, but represents a defining moment in audio design. Record players have transparent covers because Dieter Rams thought of it. That alone should be enough to earn him a place in the design history books.
Truly functional design only comes from the most careful and intense attention to detail
One could argue that his greatest overall contribution to design has come from working in areas that most users are not consciously aware of. I believe herein lies his technical genius. In his four decades as head of design at Braun, although he did not directly design all products and even had very little to do with some of them, he constantly encouraged tiny improvements that could make a good design better.
03. Good design is aesthetic
That attention to detail ranged from the acuteness of angles in forms; the size, feel and distances between switches; the integration of handle fixings; the placement and nature of graphic elements on the products themselves and extended to product photography and packaging. Designing detail is about achieving a fine balance in all aspects and areas of the product, including those external to the object.
"My heart belongs to the details. I actually always found them to be more important than the big picture. Nothing works without details. They are everything, the baseline of quality."
04. Good design makes a product understandable
One of the most striking and impressive aspects of Dieter Rams as a person and as a designer is the extraordinary completeness and consistency of his vision. His work, his home, his life, his thinking, and even his appearance are all interconnecting expressions of a clear set of ethical values.Every element has its place. There is no evidence of flashy ephemera. No loud neck ties, no frivolous souvenirs or bric a brac on the shelves, no garnish, short lived annuals in the garden. If you look at the many hundreds of objects he has designed and co-designed for Braun, Vitsoe and very occasionally others, you never see any obvious form of ornament that does not turn out to have a function.Colours are only there if they need to be, primarily as visual aids for the user. You will most certainly not find evidence of any conscious excursions into the world of art. Although some of his sketches, with their reduced balance, could easily hold their own in an art gallery, their intended function is to aid the realisation of tools for living - nothing more. His is an aesthetic of simplicity and utility and it is almost impossible to find exceptions to this in his products, his person, his environment and his statements.
05. Good design is unobtrusive
06. Good design is honest
07. Good design is long-lasting
08. Good design is thorough down to the last detail