Dieter Rams: As little design as possible

Dieter Rams is probably one of the best known industrial designers as a result of his work for Braun and Vitsoe. Products he designed in the ’60s are still produced and sold today – a testament for the timeless nature of good design.


This book covers his life, work and hit thoughts on good design which continue to inspire contemporary designers. One of the most appealing features of this book is the plethora of images and sketches that help complete the picture of Rams’ work in context.

Two chapters of this book present his own home – the only architectural project he completed.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s a comprehensive analysis of his body of work and has a lot of depth. Here are a few of my notes from the book:


Being a product designer, insists Rams, has nothing to do with being an “artist” Or a “decorator”.[…] He synthesizes the concrete product from given specifications laid down by technology, production and market.

On what makes a good designer

“A designer needs to be intelligent and quick on the uptake … He should have a grasp of technology. He should be critical, reasonable and realistic. He should have a talent for teamwork … He must also be patient, optimistic and persistent … and finally he should have the capacity for better ideas, a sense of proportion and color, sensitivity and, last but not least, a foundation in handcraft and aptitude”


In summary, a good designer is a person who can feel, listen and understand, analyze precisely and quantifiably in detail, then share and communicate the results of that analysis using appropriate media to manufacture a product that, in turn, communicates with the user and fulfills their needs.[…]In the end, says Rams, a designer needs to ask themselves: “Have I succeeded in improving things? Making them better than others did? Is my design good design?”

On aesthetics

“design is not merely and certainly not exclusively there to feast the eye like a work of art or to be decorative.” For an object o be beautiful, says Rams, it must also do its job properly.

On superficiality and chaos

We have too many things, he says. Our world is filled with too many products with superficial attractions and little or no real use. We have been indiscriminate and greedy. The term ‘design’ has been exploited and abused in the name of commercialism.