Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams refers to the legendary German industrial designer’s expansive neo-modernist stance in its title, and that generosity of spirit suffuses the entire book, which documents an exhibition that’s traveled from Osaka’s Suntory Musuem to the Design Museum in London and finally to the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt. The title makes it sound like a monograph, but the book isn’t simply about Rams. As the text explains, “the exhibition focused primarily on the work of Dieter Rams but that is not to say that his work is more important than the other Braun designers who supported him and who he supported. The exhibition … is by no means intended to simply laud the work of a single ‘genius’ designer.”

What this adds up to is a shaded portrait of Rams — including pictures of the dapper designer when he was a much younger man and dozens of sketches of unrealized products from his 40-year stint at Braun — but also mini-snapshots of the talented designers who surrounded him. Due credit is given to Rams’s product team: Reinhold Weiss and Jürgen Greubel, who were responsible for the design of the iconic HL70 plastic table fan, say, or Dietrich Lubs, Rams’s co-conspirator on the famous iPhone calculator precursor, the ET66.

But these are products familiar to any Rams disciple, and what struck us most was a section devoted to Braun’s beautifully understated communication design and to that department’s fearless leader, Wolfgang Schmittel. He ran a tight ship — an in-house manual went out to each member of the design team with instructions on how to appropriately and inappropriately market the Braun product line — but as a result, the Braun image “differed greatly from the existing design forms of other manufacturers at the time, due to its clarity. Designed printed material never looked like an affected self-representation of the designer, but always strived for optimal and direct communication. It was one of the few images in which form and content were identical, where the company’s objects harmonized with the design elements of the communication.” What follow are just a few of our favorite elements.

From Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams, edited by Keiko Ueki-Polet and Klaus Kemp. Copyright 2009 and reprinted with permission by Gestalten.