A comprehensive guide to crafting the best worskpace for productivity

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Eliza Miller

November 16, 2023

Dieter Rams (born 20 May 1932) is a German designer who is most closely associated with the consumer products company Braun, the furniture company Vitsœ, and the functionalist school of industrial design. His unobtrusive approach and belief in "less, but better" (German: Weniger, aber besser) design has influenced the practice of design, as well as 20th century aesthetics and culture.He is quoted as stating that "Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design."

Life and career

Dieter Rams began his studies in architecture and interior decoration at Wiesbaden School of Art in 1947, now part of the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences. A year later, in 1948, he took a break from studying to gain practical experience and finish his carpentry apprenticeship. He returned to the Wiesbaden School of Art in 1948 and graduated in architecture with honours in 1953, after which he began working for Frankfurt-based architect Otto Apel. In 1955, he was recruited by Braun as an architect and an interior designer, and eventually became a protégé of Fritz Eichler and the Ulm School of Design professors Hans Gugelot and Otl Aicher,all of whom worked with Braun in various capacities.


Rams joined Braun in 1955, and in 1961, became head of design at the company, a position he retained until 1997.

Rams and his staff designed many memorable products for Braun including the famous SK 4 radiogram and the high-quality 'D'-series (D 45, D 46) of 35mm film slide projectors. The SK 4, known as the "Snow White's coffin," is considered revolutionary because it transitioned household appliance design away from looking like traditional furniture. By producing electronic gadgets that were remarkable in their austere aesthetic and user friendliness, Rams made Braun a household name in the 1950s.

In 1968, Rams designed the cylindric T 2 cigarette lighter for Braun. A member of the company's board had asked him for a design; Rams replied, "only if we design our own technology to go inside them." Successive versions of the product went on to use then-current motorcycle-like magnetic ignition, followed by piezoelectric, and finally solar-powered mechanisms.


In 1959, Rams began a collaboration with Vitsœ, at the time known as Vitsœ-Zapf, which led to the development of the 606 Universal Shelving System, which is still sold today, with only minor changes from the original. He also designed furniture for Vitsœ in the 1960s, including the 620 chair collection. He worked with both Braun and Vitsœ until his retirement in 1997, and continues to work with Vitsœ.


His approach to design and his aesthetics influenced Apple designer Jonathan Ive and many Apple products pay tribute to Rams's work for Braun, including Apple's iOS 6 calculator, which references the 1977 ET66 calculator, and prior to a redesign, the appearance of the playing screen in Apple's Podcast app mimicked the appearance of the Braun TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder. The iOS 7 world clock app closely mirrors Braun's clock and watch design, while the original iPod closely resembles the Braun T3 transistor radio. In Gary Hustwit's 2009 documentary film Objectified, Rams states that Apple is one of the few companies designing products according to his principles.

The designer Jasper Morrison has spoken of his grandfather's Rams designed Braun "Snow White's Coffin" being an "influence on [his] choice in becoming a designer."

"Good design" principles

Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development, and of obsolescence being a crime in design, in the 1970s. Accordingly, he asked himself the question: "Is my design a good design?" The answer he formed became the basis for his celebrated ten principles. According to him, "good design":

  1. is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.

  2. makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.

  3. is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

  4. makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

  5. is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.

  6. is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

  7. is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.

  8. is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

  9. is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

  10. is as little design as possible – Less, but better. Simple as possible but not simpler. Good design elevates the essential functions of a product.