Less but better – Dieter Rams
On the wave of popularity of industrial and minimalist design, I present you with the silhouette of a man who is an idol of Jonathan Ive.
Born in 1932, German designer Dieter Rams has been with Braun for nearly 40 years. It may seem surprising to the younger generation, but this well-known German company has not always been involved in the production of shavers, hair straighteners or kitchen mixers alone. Its offer included high quality radios, calculators, loudspeakers, gramophones, cassette players, CD players and various other accessories.
At the beginning of his career, Dieter Rams was not involved in design at all. He studied architecture and interior design at the Werkkunstschule in Wiesbaden and in the meantime learned the profession of carpenter. In 1955, he joined Radio Braun as an architect (previously known as Braun). A moment later, the market was in a rather difficult situation and in 1956 it started to be awarded product design contracts. At that time, Braun was not very important in the market. The competition, such as Grundig, Telefunken or Saba, had a much higher position.
However, as a result of the company’s serious commitment to design, Braun began to gradually catch up with its competitors over the next few years. The design department was expanded and in 1961 was headed by Dieter Rams. In addition to industrial design itself, Braun is committed to improving the brand image, which has also played an important role.
As it often happens perversely, Dieter Rams, although he created many characteristic products that impressed many with their clean form and ease of use, was personally more involved in technological design:
„I have always been interested in new material combinations. So I was wondering how to combine delicate and strong plastics, for example when designing the shaver housing. In this case, the solution was dual injection technology, and we managed to convince the Braun management to introduce such technology, which, after all, involved investments. Subsequently, the company even filed several patents and gained a competitive advantage, which was even more important. These experiences allow me to talk about technological design, which is – even today – more important for my innovative concepts than the formal aspects.”
In his case, he is fascinated with inflexibility, consistency, courage, as well as patience with the spirit of the times. In the 1980s, when the majority was influenced by the so-called “new German design”, his projects did not always gain general approval.
For Rams, however, quality was always of the utmost importance at the end of the day. This means that today, more than ever, he can radiate a calm self-confidence and call things by name. In 2002, during an interview with him, he asked the question “What is missing from today’s design? He answered:
„Courage is what I particularly miss today and, above all, I am thinking of the courage of entrepreneurs. There are hardly any bold industrialists like Hans Knoll, Adriano Olivetti, Klaus Jürgen Maack or Jürgen Werner Braun. Less and less like them. The courage of the Braun brothers helped us a great deal at a time of change. For us, as designers, showing courage was not, and is not, a particularly great art, but with entrepreneurs it is completely different.”