Yesterday, May 20, was Dieter Rams 80th birthday. The design legend, who’s work helped birth the renaissance of Apple, is an inspiration to so many of us. His simple but functional design methodology helped sway the idea of how design should look and work. Back in 1976, Rams gave a truly inspired speech in New York titled Design by Vitsœ, in which he spoke about being a responsible designer. It’s pretty fantastic that he gave this speech over 30 years ago, and that he had such foresight into the ideas of design and what our future held. If you have a few minutes I highly suggest reading through this and thinking of how it applies to your own work.
Good design means to me: as little design as possible
The ideas behind my work as a designer have to match with a company’s objectives. This principle applies to my work not only at Braun but also at Vitsœ. I have been working for these two companies for about 20 years and – I like to point out – only for these two companies.
I am convinced that design – at least in the terms I understand it – cannot be performed by someone outside the company. I am absolutely convinced that this is true if products are designed as part of a larger system, like we do at Vitsœ.
In 1957 I began to develop a storage system that formed the basis of the company Vitsœ, which was founded in 1959. Thus the ideology behind my design is engrained within the company.
Ladies and gentlemen, design is a popular subject today. No wonder because, in the face of increasing competition, design is often the only product differentiation that is truly discernible to the buyer.
I am convinced that a well-thought-out design is decisive to the quality of a product. A poorly-designed product is not only uglier than a well-designed one but it is of less value and use. Worst of all it might be intrusive.
The development and changes that we have initiated with our work at Vitsœ are, I believe, positive for the development of good design as a whole.
The introduction of good design is needed for a company to be successful. However, our definition of success may be different to yours. Striving for good design is of social importance as it means, amongst other things, absolutely avoiding waste.
What is good design? Product design is the total configuration of a product: its form, colour, material and construction. The product must serve its intended purpose efficiently.
A designer who wants to achieve good design must not regard himself as an artist who, according to taste and aesthetics, is merely dressing-up products with a last- minute garment.
The designer must be the gestaltingenieur or creative engineer. They synthesise the completed product from the various elements that make up its design. Their work is largely rational, meaning that aesthetic decisions are justified by an understanding of the product’s purpose.