I’ve just finished reading a marvellous book on Dieter Rams, Susan Lovell’s As Little Design As Possible (Phaidon 2010). Beautifully illustrated and very well written, it explores in some detail his deeply felt and highly committed views on design. Even though he was principally a product designer, these views are entirely relevant to any design-centred discipline:
Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design. Function-oriented design is the fruit of intense, comprehensive, patient and contemplative reflection on reality, on life, on the needs, desires, and feelings of people.
What the text also brings out is a very clear line of descent originating with Peter Behrens, via the Bauhaus, on to Rams and then on to Jonathan Ives at Apple. This design philosophy is user-focused, minimalistic, and quality-driven. In his foreword to the book, Ives openly confesses the inspiration he has derived from Braun products. The extent of this debt can perhaps best be gauged by comparing Rams’ T3 radio of 1958 with the iPod: very similar in form, and just look at that rotary controller:
Following up on ideas expressed in my earlier post on Steve Jobs, in the final section of the book Michael Di Tullo (design director at Converse) says:
We are taught that material things cannot make us happy, that the stuff of this world is trivial and temporary. Rams work proves that wrong. It shows that material things do matter and that we should respect what we make, what we buy and what we use. It reveals that a simple functional object can do its job while conveying joy, optimism and democracy.