How Dieter Rams designed the modern world

A new book pays tribute to the genius behind Braun








There are few modern designers as influential as Dieter Rams. 

Even if the name isn’t instantly familiar, you’ll be well-acquainted with the German's ‘less but better’ ethos, which influences everything from smartphones to Scandinavian flat-pack furniture.

Best known for his pioneering work at Braun during the 1970s, Rams (now 85) was a master of functionalist industrial design.

Items were carefully considered, stripped of ornament and reduced to their most essential elements while retaining their original purpose. The products he created were not just useful, but beautiful because they were useful. 

This approach not only won him worldwide recognition, but made his products timeless. The calculator on the iPhone appears directly inspired by the Braun model ET44, released in 1977.

While head of design at the company, Rams asked himself, ”Is my design good design?” The answer became the basis for his celebrated ‘Ten principles of good design’ – an enduring inspiration for young designers ever since.

Now, a new book, Ten Principles For Good Design: Dieter Rams, shows 100 items that embody those guidelines. 

Over 416 beautifully-shot pages we see familiar items like Rams’ iconic clocks, calculator and coffee grinder, as well as less well known products like shelving systems and cigarette lighters – each accompanied by a breakdown of his design principles and processes.

Alongside these are archive materials including photos of the design team, excerpts from publications and speeches, as well as chronological overview of design icons – categorised by function – that show the enormous breadth of his vision.

The pocket calculator may have been eclipsed by the smartphone, but when it comes to design, we're all living in Dieter's world. 

Ten Principles For Good Design: Dieter Rams, published by Prestel, is out now. You can buy it here

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