Dieter Rams Lists the 10 Timeless Principles of Good Design–Backed by Music by Brian Eno

Near­ly all of us have heard the dic­tum “Less, but bet­ter,” and near­ly all of us have used Braun prod­ucts. But how many of us know that both of those owe their con­sid­er­able pop­u­lar­i­ty to the same man? After study­ing archi­tec­ture, inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tion, and car­pen­try, the Ger­man indus­tri­al design­er Dieter Rams spent 40 years at Braun, most of them as the com­pa­ny’s chief design offi­cer. There he cre­at­ed such hits as the 606 uni­ver­sal shelv­ing sys­tem, the SK61 record play­er, and the ET66 cal­cu­la­tor. That last pro­vid­ed the mod­el for the cal­cu­la­tor appli­ca­tion inter­face in Apple’s iOS 3, among oth­er homages Apple has paid to Rams.

Rams, in turn, has been com­pli­men­ta­ry to Apple, call­ing it one of the few com­pa­nies in exis­tence that designs prod­ucts accord­ing to his prin­ci­ples. Any­one can sense the affin­i­ty between the most endur­ing Apple prod­ucts and Rams-designed Braun prod­ucts, but what are those prin­ci­ples?

You can hear them laid out by the man him­self him­self in the trail­er above for Rams, last year’s doc­u­men­tary by Gary Hus­twit, he of Hel­veti­ca (the doc­u­men­tary about the font) and Objec­ti­fied (the doc­u­men­tary about indus­tri­al design that fea­tured Rams as an inter­vie­wee). The list is as fol­lows:

  1. Good design is inno­v­a­tive. “Design always comes about in con­nec­tion with inno­v­a­tive tech­nol­o­gy. How can design be good if the tech­nol­o­gy is not on the same lev­el?”
  2. Good design makes a prod­uct use­ful. “Good design opti­mizes use­ful­ness and ignores any­thing that does­n’t serve the pur­pose or works against it.”
  3. Good design is aes­thet­ic. “Objects you use dai­ly sig­nif­i­cant­ly shape your sur­round­ings and your sense of well-being. Only some­thing that is well-made can be beau­ti­ful.”
  4. Good design makes a prod­uct under­stand­able. “It makes it easy to under­stand the struc­ture of the prod­uct. Even more, it can make the prod­uct ‘talk.’ Ide­al­ly, it explains itself best.”
  5. Good design is unob­tru­sive. “Prod­ucts that serve a pur­pose have the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a tool. Their design should be neu­tral and leave room for the user’s self-expres­sion.”
  6. Good design is hon­est. “Hon­est means not try­ing to make a prod­uct look more inno­v­a­tive, pow­er­ful, or valu­able than it real­ly is.”
  7. Good design is long-last­ing. “In con­trast to fash­ion­able design, it lasts many years even in our cur­rent throw­away soci­ety.”
  8. Good design is thor­ough down to the last detail. “Noth­ing should be arbi­trary or left to chance. Thor­ough­ness and pre­ci­sion are expres­sions of respect for the user.”
  9. Good design is envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly. “Design makes an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to pre­serv­ing the envi­ron­ment. It con­serves resources and min­i­mizes phys­i­cal and visu­al pol­lu­tion.”
  10. Good design is as lit­tle design as pos­si­ble. “Back to sim­plic­i­ty. Back to puri­ty. Less, but bet­ter.”

The trail­er illus­trates each of these prin­ci­ples with one of Rams’ designs, devel­oped at Braun or else­where: the T 1000 CD radio, the MPZ 21 cit­rus juicer, the 740 stool, the 620 chair. Though designed forty, fifty, even six­ty years ago, these gad­gets and pieces of fur­ni­ture have stood the test of time. Some have even made a return to the mar­ket in recent years of our both aes­thet­i­cal­ly and envi­ron­men­tal­ly con­scious age. You can watch Rams on Vimeo on Demand, and if you do, you’ll not only get to enjoy its Bri­an Eno-com­posed score, you’ll learn much more about how Rams designed his most beloved prod­ucts — and about where he still sees ways to improve them. That holds true even for his design prin­ci­ples them­selves: “I always empha­sized that they weren’t meant to last for­ev­er,” he says. “They should be updat­ed.”

via Uncrate

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bauhaus, Mod­ernism & Oth­er Design Move­ments Explained by New Ani­mat­ed Video Series

Pao­la Antonel­li on Design as the Inter­face Between Progress and Human­i­ty

Saul Bass’ Oscar-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Short Pon­ders Why Man Cre­ates

Saul Bass’ Advice for Design­ers: Make Some­thing Beau­ti­ful and Don’t Wor­ry About the Mon­ey

Sketch­es of Artists by the Late New Media Design­er Hill­man Cur­tis

Abstract: Netflix’s New Doc­u­men­tary Series About “the Art of Design” Pre­mieres Today

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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