MPZ 21 Multipress Citrus Juicer, 1972, by Dieter Rams and Jurgen Greubel for Braun. Photography: Matthew Donaldson, from Wallpaper n.103.
MPZ 21 Multipress Citrus Juicer, 1972, by Dieter Rams and Jurgen Greubel for Braun. Photography: Matthew Donaldson, from Wallpaper n.103.

No. 2
Good Design makes a product Useful,
Dieter Rams

Posted by Daniel Lignini,

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

It is fascinating to see that even today’s Citromatic Juicers kept Rams’ principles alive and this is the reason why his 1972’s design (photo) looks as modern and cutting-edge today as the day Rams’ designed it. It’s amazing how, such ‘apparently’ easily designed product, just make sense and nobody would never asked: How does it work? nor What is it? It explains for itself.

Design as the result of usage and purpose.

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In his foreword to Sophie Lovell’s book Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible, Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of industrial design at Apple, describes his reaction, decades earlier, to the Rams-designed Braun MPZ 2 Citromatic juicer. The surface was “’bold, pure, perfectly-proportioned, coherent and effortless.” He describes the output of Rams and his design team as “wonderfully conceived and designed objects: products that were beautifully made in high volumes and that were broadly accessible.” Not surprisingly, decades after the introduction of the Citromatic, similar descriptions are being applied to Apple’s own products, and devotion to design is helping drive that company’s astounding growth. 

There is timelessness to Rams’ designs, one of the reasons, perhaps, that they have been added to the collections of museums around the world. Design consultant Glenn Strand of Glenn W. Strand & Associates in Minneapolis describes Rams as “a practitioner of minimalism from a functional standpoint.” Rams’ work, Strand says, “is simple, economical, and intuitive with nothing superficial about it. Rams practices ‘deep design’ incorporating material, how something is manufactured, how long it lasts, even how easy it is to maintain. As a result, you don’t necessarily have to teach someone to use the product. To a large extent it explains itself.”

It becomes apparent that these principles are not primarily about the product but about the relationship between the product and the user. Aesthetic quality, Rams says, is integral to a product’s usefulness because “products we use every day affect our person and our well-being.” Clearly, he is moving aesthetics from the realm of decoration into that of function. Purposeful products, according to Rams, are not decorative objects but rather tools for the user’s self-expression. And perhaps most pointed of all, honest design does not “manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.”

Arguably, the principles are written with the consumer in mind, but they apply equally to design that consumers will never see. Steve Jobs, who was a practitioner of, if not a student of, Rams’, gave the example of the maker of a fine piece of furniture. “You’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back … For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” True to this belief, Jobs applied his own strict principles to the internals of products that no user would ever see.

In an interview with The Economist’s blog, Rams, arguably the designer’s designer, describes himself as more an architect than a designer. That is certainly his privilege, but whether as an architect or as a designer, Rams’ created designs and principles that have outlasted trends, fads, and fashions and deserve every bit of the attention they receive.

Less but Better: Dieter Rams on Design – Proto Labs Blog.


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