Exploring the work of product designer Dieter Rams who has influenced tech trailblazer Apple

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Vitsœ

The world may drool over the clean, sleek creations of Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of industrial design at Apple, but Dieter Rams was espousing the virtues of good design decades before Ive was even born.

From 1955 until 1995, Rams worked for German electronics manufacturer Braun and furniture company Vitsœ. Today, Braun is better known for making electric razors, but during Rams’ tenure, the firm’s designs were a cut above the rest.

Dieter Rams was espousing the virtues of good design decades before “Jony” Ive was even born

For years, Braun manufactured everything from coffee makers to calculators and, as head of design, Rams had a role in the majority of products that rolled off the Braun assembly line. Some, like the SK 4 audio series, have become collectors’ items. Others, such as the T3 Pocket Radio, have been influential – it resembles Apple’s Classic iPod.

Meanwhile for Vitsœ, Rams is best known for dreaming up the 606 Universal Shelving System and the 620 Chair Programme, both of which are still in production.

What underpins all these products is Rams’ adherence to his “Ten Principles” of good design:

Ten Principles

  1. Good design is innovative
  2. Good design makes a product useful
  3. Good design is aesthetic
  4. Good design helps us to understand a product
  5. Good design is unobtrusive
  6. Good design is honest
  7. Good design is durable
  8. Good design is consequent to the last detail
  9. Good design is concerned with the environment
  10. Good design is as little design as possible

It’s a shame few firms take any notice of these “commandments” (as they’re often known).

Rams summed up his approach to design with the phrase “Weniger, aber besser”, which translates as “Less, but better” — a philosophy perfectly illustrated by Google’s uncluttered homepage.

The search giant’s work is, however, an exception in world that’s “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises”, says Rams. Google and Apple follow Rams’ principles. Imagine how successful other firms would be if they did the same.