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Fri 11.11.

Friday Food For Thought: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

Posted by Malgorzata Stankiewicz on 11.11.2011 - Tagged as: , , , , , ,

Dieter Rams, T 1000 World Radio, 1963; photo Koichi Okuwaki

During his much-esteemed, four-decades-long career at Braun, Dieter Rams created some of the most iconic, instantly-recognisable products while his famous ‘less but better’ philosophy laid the foundation and drew attention to subjects such as sustainability and design ethics. Now, to celebrate Rams’ profound contribution to contemporary design, SFMOMA presents an exhibition dedicated to work of the acclaimed German designer.

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams at SFMOMA - exhibition view

Originally organised and produced by Japanese Suntory Museum Osaka in collaboration with Fuchu Art Museum, Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams showcases an extensive body of work encompassing some 200 sketches, prototypes, original products as well as corporate identity such as advertising and print media created for Braun and Vitsœ.

Dieter Rams, Vitsœ 620, 1962; photo Koichi Okuwaki

Rams’s Ten Principles of ‘Good Design’


Good Design Is Innovative— The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.


Good Design Makes a Product Useful—A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.


Good Design Is Aesthetic—The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.


Good Design Makes A Product Understandable—It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.


Good Design Is Unobtrusive— Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.


Good Design Is Honest— It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.


Good Design Is Long-lasting— It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.


Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail—Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.


Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly— Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.


Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible—Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Dieter Rams, Braun phonosuper (SK 4), 1956; design: Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams, photo: Koichi Okuwaki

Born in 1932, Dieter Rams studied architecture at the Werkkunstschule Wiesbaden and in 1955, following his employment in the architectural practice of Otto Apel, Rams became an interior designer at Braun and 1961, he was appointed as chief of design, a position which he kept until 1995. While at Braun, Rams ushered in a new wave of holistic attention to domestic products, forever changing the relationship between design and the consumer. Simultaneous to Rams’s work with Braun, he collaborated with German company Vitsœ & Zapf (later British Vitsœ), which started production of his furniture designs in 1959. In 1960 Rams designed the acclaimed 606 Universal Shelving System, which is still being produced by Vitsœ today.

Dieter Rams, Braun hair dryer (HLD 4), 1970, photo: Koichi Okuwaki

Dieter Rams, Braun coffee machine (KF 20 Aromaster), 1972; detail, design: Florian Seiffert, photo: Koichi Okuwaki

Dieter Rams, Braun television (FS 80), 1964; detail, photo: Koichi Okuwaki

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams
organised by Joseph Becker

27 August 2011 to 20 February 2012


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103



to SFMOMA’s website


discover Dieter Rams’ designs on Architonic

For technical support contact Alfred Giolai Friday Food For Thought: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams