Dieter Rams (born 20 May 1932 in Wiesbaden, Hessen) is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design. Rams began studies in architecture and interior decoration at Wiesbaden School of Art in 1947. Soon after in 1948, he took a break from studying to gain practical experience and conclude his carpentry apprenticeship.
He resumed studies at Wiesbaden School of Art in 1948 and graduated with honours in 1953 after which he began working for Frankfurt based architect Otto Apel. In 1955, he was recruited to Braun as an architect and an interior designer. In addition, in 1961, he became the Chief Design Officer at Braun until 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”.
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.
What Dieter Rams and his team at Braun did was to produce hundreds of wonderfully conceived and designed objects: products that were beautifully made in high volumes and that were broadly accessible.
By producing electronic gadgets that were remarkable in their austere aesthetic and user friendliness, Rams made Braun a household name in the 1950s. He is considered to be one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century.
Rams’s Ten Principles of “Good Design”
Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development and of obsolescence being a crime in design in the 1970s. Accordingly he asked himself the question: is my design good design? The answer formed his now celebrated ten principles.
- Is Innovative: The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
- Makes a Product Useful: A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
- 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.
The appearance of the calculator application included in iOS 3 mimics the appearance of the 1987 Braun ET 66 calculator designed by Rams and Dietrich Lubs, and the appearance of the now playing screen in Apple’s own Podcast app mimics the appearance of the Braun TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder. In Gary Hustwit’s 2009 documentary film Objectified, Rams states that Apple Inc. is one of the few companies designing products according to his principles.