Less But Better: Dieter Rams Did It First

By Sam Scott on at

If you’re a fan of British design hero Jonathan Ive (the guy behind the look and feel of the Apple iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad), you might also be aware of his major German influence, the now-80-year-old godfather of industrial design, Dieter Rams.

His distinguished career at Braun helped to redefine the role of the designer in the development of consumer products, and Apple's success certainly owes a thing or two to his ethos of honest, functional design. Rams is also famous for his ten principles of good design, and his dislike for the prefix "designer" (as in designer shoes), because it elevates fashion to the status of design. True design should "help make our lives a little bit easier," not just dress things up. Hence his adage, "less but better".

It wouldn't be a Gizmodo UK Design Week without a top ten of Dieter Rams's best creations now, would it?


SK4 Record Player, Braun, 1956

Before 1956, record players all looked pretty much the same -- they were dark in colour, and usually wooden boxes with criss-crossed speaker mesh. This striking innovation, nicknamed 'Snow White's Coffin', gave birth to a new era of the personal record player. [Image via chrislabrooy]


Clock Radio, Braun, 1978

The charming little white box was simple and reliable. The tuner dial wrapped neatly around the speaker, and the flick bottons on the top could be used to cue the radio to turn on at a set time. [Photo by Koichi Okuwaki]


606 Universal Shelving System, Vitsoe, 1960

One of Rams' most distinctive designs, the 606 Universal Shelving System was a physical manifestation of his commandment, "good design is as little design as possible". [Image via Vitsoe]


L2 Speaker, Braun, 1958

The super minimalist L2 would look extremely dated next to some of the garish 'super-bass' speakers that come with contemporary HiFis, but the L2's modesty lets the music do the talking. [Image credit: Vitsoe]


Electric Shaver (300 Special DL3), Braun, 1955

A stone cold classic. The Braun was the electric shaver of its day, and brought a new element of masculine style to the bathroom, the kitchen table, the car, and just about anywhere else for that matter. [Photo by Koichi Okuwaki]


HLD4 Hairdryer, Braun, 1970

Another boxy number, the hairdryer was functionality incarnate, but the choice of primary colours lent an important splash of individuality, a move that Jonathan Ive would employ in 1998 with the iMac. [Photo by Koichi Okuwaki]


620 Chair Programme, Vitose,1962

The 620 was an anti-fashion statement which put longevity and functionality above style and poise. A 'programme' because of its adaptability; arms could be removed to add new seats and the 'low' back panel could be replaced with a higher one. [Image credit: Vitsoe]


ET 66 Calculator, Braun, 1987

When there's a right or wrong answer at stake, pure and unobtrusive design is at a premium. The stripped back interface and colour coded buttons have inspired countless imitations. [Photo by Koichi Okuwaki]


Cylindric T2 Lighter, Braun, 1968

The cylindric table lighter did exactly what it didn't need to say on the tin. Rams was a smoker who enjoyed making lighters that were "small sculptural objects". This design was based around the simple ergonomics of lighting up by pushing the pad with your thumb. [Image credit: Vitsoe]


FS80 TV, Braun, 1964

If I could go back in time to witness the moon landing, I'd want to watch it on one of these! A period piece if ever there was one, these were the days when the television set was nothing more than a 'window on the world'. [Photo by Koichi Okuwaki]

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