An upcoming documentary on Dieter Rams, one of the most influential industrial designers of all time, will feature a soundtrack by composer and producer Brian Eno. The documentary, called simply Rams, is by Gary Hustwit, who also directed the design-oriented films Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanized.
Rams, 84, was head of design at Braun from 1961 to 1995, where he established himself as one of the most important industrial designers of the 20th century. His iconic designs ranged from watches and calculators, to audio equipment and furniture. In a rare interview, German designer Dieter Rams has called for a return to well-made, long-lasting products, even if it comes at the expense of design innovation. In the interview, published in Kinfolk, Rams said that restrained aesthetics and optimized functionality are key to creating products that will endure, even if these qualities “act as a constraint upon innovation”.
Though it’s expected this year, the premiere date for Rams is not yet determined. Last week, Eno’s Bloom: Open Space “mixed reality” installation with Peter Chilvers opened in Amsterdam. Last year, Eno released his new album Reflection and the Tom Rogerson collaboration Finding Shore.
“I have always tended to steer well clear from this discussion about beauty and argued instead for a design that is as reduced, clear and user-oriented as possible, and simply more bearable for a longer period of time,” he said.
“The only plausible way forward is the less-but-better way: back to purity, back to simplicity,” he added. “Simplicity is the key to excellence!”
His latest comments reiterate the values he promoted in his Ten Principles for Good Design, which were first published in the late 1970s, and argued that the long-term usefulness of an object is intrinsically linked to how it looks.
“We really should consider very carefully whether we constantly need new things,” he said. “I have been arguing for a long time for less, but better things.”
Rams has had a career spanning more than 5 decades, creating designs for Braun and others that have not only become classics, but have been hugely influential on modern design. The second trailer for the documentary features some iconic examples of his work:
For over fifty years, Dieter Rams has left an indelible mark on the field of product design and the world at large with his iconic work at Braun and Vitsoe. The objects Dieter has designed have touched the lives of millions of people––so many of us have had a Braun coffeemaker, shaver, stereo, calculator, speakers, or alarm clock. Or an Oral-B toothbrush. Or a Vitsoe 606 shelving system. Or any of the hundreds of other products Dieter has designed or overseen the design of.
His work has influenced the way most of today’s consumer products look and function.
But one of the most interesting parts of Dieter’s story is that he now looks back on his career with some regret.
“If I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer,” he has said. “There are too many unnecessary products in this world.”
He has long been an advocate for the ideas of environmental consciousness and long-lasting products. RAMS is a design documentary, but it’s also a rumination on consumerism, materialism, and sustainability. Dieter’s philosophy is about more than just design, it’s a about a way to live. It’s about getting rid of distractions and visual clutter, and just living with what you need.