This week we watched the 2018 documentary titled ‘Rams: Principles of Good Design’.
It was great to see Rams as a real person as opposed to this mythical character we usually hear about. Moments of charm, such as the scenes in his garden, help bring him down to earth. I especially enjoyed his appreciation towards the small figurine on his stone wall. After learning how much Rams cares about his 10 principles and about living such a purely functional life, it was lovely to see he has a capacity to enjoy more symbolic, playful objects as well.
What struck me most about Rams as a designer was his approach to critiquing design; he is not afraid to call out bad design when he sees it. I believe criticism is essential to the design process as it is often the motivation for us to make a further iteration or return to a previous stage. Rams doesn’t beat around the bush and it makes this process more efficient.
In the 1970s his perspective on design changed considerably. He now says that, if he could do it all again, he wouldn’t become a designer. He’d rather become a landscape architect or urban planner. This is because of his contribution to consumerism and overconsumption. I find it interesting that he has never said that plastic is bad, or that we need to aim towards a fully circular solution. He simply designs things to last. The product lifespan is ‘forever’.
One way to facilitate this is to design for repairability. The Vitsoe products are highly repairable and are always supported by the company. This latter point is the hard part. Vitsoe must have the restraint to not adjust the design over time, at least not in a way that removes backwards compatibility. This is incompatible with many company’s business models, with planned obsolescence rife.
You often hear the refrain ‘form follows function’ and it’s clear Rams is a proponent of this. His work at Braun was all about functionality, and even at Vitsoe – a furniture company – his products are driven by functionality. It seems this is his approach to all design, but perhaps these industries lend themselves towards functional design more so than others. I wonder what the result would be if Rams designed for a clothes company… probably just a plain black t-shirt as he is often seen wearing.
For a deeper dive into Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design check out my previous blog here.