The way Dieter Rams tell it good design boils down to something as simple durability.
Okay, not durability alone. A Well-designed piece is so self-explanatory that figuring out how to use it as simple as looking at it. And a design develops from the inside out because it involves not only aesthetics but also function.
Unless you are a graduate of the Bauhaus School, those maxims sound more like the credos of a plumbing contractor than a graduate of an Art Institute. It is that kind of pragmatism that has made Dieter Rams a recognisable name in the world of design – and made the Braun company in Frankfurt, West Germany one of the leading manufacturers of electrical appliances.
As executive director at Braun, Rams has transformed clunky coffeemakers and shavers into objects as sleek and beautifully easy to use.
“You need a clock. You need a coffee maker. You need instruments of nice music, but they have to be designed in such a way that they are not disturbing visually,” Rams explains. “Visual pollution is just a detrimental as physical pollution.”
Since Rams beautified the back of his first radio in 1955, producing the first radio that could be displayed from any angle, Braun has grown from a company selling 5 million items a year to one that sold literally — billions of units last year.
Rams have a preference for spare lines and simplicity of function and form. For that, he bows to Picasso and the Bauhaus School. Because industrial design is constrained by utilitarian considerations, however, Rams job is more akin to the architects than to the artist’s and, in that regard, his training as an architect served him well. So when Rams-designed Braun’s now classic coffee maker, his first consideration was the function. Clearly, the pot needed a compartment for water and another for coffee grounds. Rams started sketching designs and discovered that he produce a sleeker, more compact coffee maker by reducing the conventional cylinder for the water to a semicylinder.
Rams sent the plans to the model department, which produced a three-dimensional foam plastic model to scale. Then Rams and his crew refined the design. Switches and handles were tested and the graphic design revised.
Rams said, ” All the other ones (coffee makers) were looking like a laboratory beaker. What we tried to do was make this thing more compact, looking more like an old samovar.”
Let’s pay a virtual visit to a famous industrial designer’s workshop. By examining the principles of his winning approach, we can incorporate vital elements into our designs in the “less is more” age. As user experience practitioners, most of us have worked with Nielsen and Molich’s 10 heuristics or rules of thumb and the Eight Golden Rules by Ben Shneiderman.