Dieter Rams

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Dieter Rams
Designer-Dieter Rams.jpg
Dieter Rams at Vitsœ
Born (1932-05-20) 20 May 1932 (age 88)
Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany
Occupation Industrial designer
Known for Braun consumer products, Vitsœ 606 Universal Shelving System
Rams at the 50th Anniversary of Braun Innovation exhibition, Boston 2005 Dieter Rams at Boston Braun Exhibit.jpg
Rams at the 50th Anniversary of Braun Innovation exhibition, Boston 2005

Dieter Rams (born 20 May 1932 in Wiesbaden, Hessen) is a German industrial designer and retired academic [1] , closely associated with the consumer products company Braun, the furniture company Vitsœ, and the functionalist school of industrial design. His unobtrusive approach and belief in "Less, but better" design generated a timeless quality in his products and have influenced the design of many products, which also secured Rams worldwide recognition and appreciation.


Life and career

Dieter Rams began his studies in architecture and interior decoration at Wiesbaden School of Art in 1947, now part of the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences. A year later, in 1948, he took a break from studying to gain practical experience and finish his carpentry apprenticeship. He returned to the Wiesbaden School of Art in 1948 and graduated in architecture 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 1961, he became the chief design officer at Braun, a position he retained until 1995. [2]

Braun Phonosuper SK4, "Snow White coffin," by Dieter Rams and Hans Gugelot for Braun, 1956 1956 Braun Phonosuper SK4 Schneewittchensarg.JPG
Braun Phonosuper SK4, "Snow White coffin," by Dieter Rams and Hans Gugelot for Braun, 1956

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 SK4 record player and the high-quality 'D'-series (D45, D46) of 35mm film slide projectors. The SK4, known as the "Snow White coffin," is considered revolutionary because it transitioned household appliance design away from looking like traditional furniture. [3] He is also known for designing a furniture collection for Vitsœ, at the time known as Vitsœ-Zapf, in the 1960s, including the 606 universal shelving system and 620 chair programme.

By producing electronic gadgets that were remarkable in their austere aesthetic and user friendliness, Rams made Braun a household name in the 1950s.

In 1968, Rams designed the cylindric T2 cigarette lighter for Braun. A member of the company's board had asked him for a design; Rams replied "only if we design our own technology to go inside them." Successive versions of the product went on to use then-current motorcycle-like magnetic ignition, followed by piezoelectric, and finally solar-powered mechanisms. [4]

In addition to being a successor to the Bauhaus, Rams eventually became a protégé of the Ulm School of Design in Ulm, Germany. [5]

His designs inspired Apple designer Jonathan Ive, including Apple's iOS 6 calculator, a clear reference to the 1977 Braun ET66 calculator.

"Good design" principles

Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development, and of obsolescence being a crime in design, in the 1970s. [2] Accordingly, he asked himself the question: "Is my design a good design?" The answer he formed became the basis for his celebrated ten principles. According to him, "good design": [6] [7]

  1. 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.
  2. 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. [8]
  3. is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  4. 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.
  5. is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.
  6. is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  7. is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.
  8. is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  9. is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  10. is minimal – Less is more. Simple as possible but not simpler. Good design elevates the essential functions of a product.

Awards and accomplishments

Rams has been involved in design for seven decades, and has received many honorary appellations throughout his career. [9] Notable awards and accomplishments include:


The appearance of the calculator application included in Apple's iOS 3 mimics the appearance of the 1987 Braun ET 66 calculator [11] designed by Rams and Dietrich Lubs, and the appearance of the playing screen in Apple's own Podcast app used to mimic the appearance of the Braun TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder currently, before a later redesign of the app removed it. The iOS 7 world clock app closely mirrors Braun's clock (and watch) design down to the font and layout used. 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. [12] [13]

Less and More exhibition

Less and More is an exhibition of Rams' landmark designs for Braun and Vitsœ. It first traveled to Japan in 2008 and 2009, [14] appearing at the Suntory Museum in Osaka and the Fuchu Art Museum in Tokyo. Between November 2009 and March 2010 it appeared at the Design Museum in London. [15] [16] It appeared at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt from July to September 2010. [17] [18] The exhibit then appeared at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from August 2011 to February 2012. [19]


On June 22, 2016 filmmaker Gary Hustwit announced his documentary Rams and launched a Kickstarter campaign for the project. The full-length documentary features in-depth conversations with Rams about his design philosophy, the process behind some of his most iconic designs, his inspiration and his regrets. Some of the funds raised in the Kickstarter campaign also helped to preserve Rams' design archive in cooperation with the Dieter and Ingeborg Rams Foundation. [20] The film is currently screening at special events worldwide and is now available to order on digital and disc, [21] and is available for paid streaming on Vimeo.

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  1. "Prof. em. Dr. h.c. Dieter Rams". Red dot. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  2. 1 2 "Vitsœ | Dieter Rams". Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  3. "Master and commandments". Wallpaper. IPC Media (103): 321. October 2007. ISSN   1364-4475. OCLC   948263254. the Phonosuper SK4, dubbed 'Snow White coffin' because of its transparent lid and white metal casing. The SK4 was revolutionary. Perhaps more than any other product, it marked the end of chunky, bourgeois household electrical products decoratively disguised as pieces of furniture
  4. "05 Good design is unobtrusive". Wallpaper. IPC Media (103): 331. October 2007. ISSN   1364-4475. OCLC   948263254. A member of the Braun board came to me one day and asked if we could design cigarette lighters and I replied, 'Only if we design our own technology to go inside them.' So we developed an entirely new magnetic ignition system. It needed quite a bit of pressure to ignite —the technology came from the motorbike kick-start mechanism— [...] A later version with piezoelectric ignition was more economical, and the final version developed in 1974 was solar-powered
  5. "Dieter Rams Industrial designer". Retrieved 11 February 2013.
  6. "SFMOMA Presents Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams". Archived from the original on 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  7. "The power of good design: Dieter Rams's ideology, engrained within Vitsœ". Vitsœ. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  8. "02 Good design makes a product useful". Wallpaper. IPC Media (103): 326. October 2007. ISSN   1364-4475. OCLC   948263254. The product is purchased in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose –in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimise the utility of a product.
  9. "Vitsœ | History". Retrieved 2012-08-26.
  10. "01 Design is innovative". Wallpaper. IPC Media (103): 324–325. October 2007. ISSN   1364-4475. OCLC   948263254. TP1 RADIO/PHONO COMBINATION, 1959 [...] It was awarded the Interplast design award in London in 1961
  11. "Apple design and Dieter Rams". Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  12. "Design evolution". Braun GmbH. 2009. Retrieved 24 May 2011. Designer: Dieter Rams and Dietrich Lubs
  13. "The Future Of Apple Is In 1960s Braun: 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apple's Future". Gawker Media. 14 January 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  14. "Less and More: the design ethos of Dieter Rams in Japan". 2008-09-15. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  15. "'Less and More' at London's Design Museum". 2009-12-04. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  16. "Less and More – The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams". 2009-11-18. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  17. "Less and More in Frankfurt". 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  18. "Less and More – Das Designethos von Dieter Rams (requires Flash)". Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  19. "'Less and More': The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams". 2011-08-27. Archived from the original on 2011-09-13. Retrieved 2011-09-04.
  20. "RAMS: The First Feature Documentary About Dieter Rams". 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  21. "Rams Film Update". Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  22. Dieter Rams and Hans Gugelot, 1956

Further reading