Less and More: Dieter Rams at the San Francisco MoMA

Blog: 09.02.11

Friday, September 02, 2011 - 06:00 AM

Look around you, specifically at the objects that are surrounding you right now.  How would you describe the products you use for your everyday life?  Unobtrusive?  Innovative?  Honest? 

These are the kind of questions that make up the legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams' 10 Guiding Principles of Good Design.  They have also helped him make some of the most forward-thinking home products of the 20th century.  And starting this week, you can see some his most famous works at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

Born in 1932 in Wiesbaden, Germany, Dieter Rams began his career at the Braun Company in 1955. Though we now think of Braun as a maker of flashy grooming products (such as the cruZer), back in the mid-20th century they were known for their innovative electronics and home appliances.  At Braun, Dieter Rams pushed the boundaries of industrial design, reducing the forms of record players, wristwatches and, yes, even electric razors down to their most basic function, adding details only when absolutely necessary.  His aim was to make functional, timeless objects, products that could serve the consumer no matter what their location or language.  “Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live,” he once explained, “is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design.”

Dieter Rams in 2006 (Vitsoe Wikipedia Commons)

Rams’ work is still influencing designers today, most notability the head designer at Apple, Jonathan Ive.  In a new book on Rams entitled As Little Design As Possible, Ive recounts seeing a Braun juicer at age 10, noting “it was the essence of juice made material: a static object that perfectly described the process by which it worked.  It felt complete and it felt right.”  You can see Dieter Rams' influence in Ive’s design for Apple's iPhones and computers, particularly in their curved metallic casings and stark, minimal finishes.

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams is on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art starting this week and runs until February 20th, 2012.


Slideshow: Design by Dieter Rams

Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams, Braun phonosuper (SK 4), 1956

Dieter Rams, Braun television (FS 80), 1964

Dieter Rams, Braun hair dryer (HLD 4), 1970

Dieter Rams and Dietrich Lubs, Braun clock radio (ABR 21 signal radio), 1978

Gerd A. Müller, Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams, Braun electric shaver (SM 31 sixtant), 1962

Florian Seiffert and Dieter Rams, Braun coffee machine (KF 20 Aromaster), 1972

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Comments [2]

Harlan Sadberry from San Francisco

What Design? While SF MOMA celebrates the minimalist design of Dieter Rams people will gather in Portugal to explore ideas about absence of use or purpose in design. The EXD’11/LISBOA Design Biennale has a theme of “Useless”. As an artist I have to at least pretend to ask if that doesn’t apply to everything I create.
You can decide whether it is minimalism or uselessnessism that is being carried to its logical conclusion in a project titled "How to Recall What Never Happened". In conjunction with the Biennale a group of artists, including myself, has been invited to submit proposals for work never intended to go beyond the design stage. Apparently we will be seeing how many of the purposes of an art exhibition can be achieved without actually staging one. See Press Release ( http://harlansadberry.com/Page_5.html ).
Harlan Sadberry

Sep. 20 2011 10:43 AM
Alex from New York

there's a faecbook fanpage that keeps me updated. http://www.facebook.com/Dieter.Rams

Sep. 10 2011 02:38 PM

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