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Dieter Rams, The God of Pristine Minimalism

A look at the man who should be getting 50% of Apple's profits.

Gizmodo is up with an all too-short excerpt of a book that every last design fan should own or buy, immediately: Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams, edited by Klaus Kemp and Keiko Ueki-polet. (The book was also the exhibition catalog for a show of the same name.) A money quote, indicating the crossroads that many of Rams's products represented both his long-time employer, Braun, and the wider world:

The time was ripe for an innovative radio, which simultaneously morphed into a paradigmatic work by the designer Dieter Rams. It reflects both cosmopolitan attitudes and mobility, two characteristics that are considerably more important today. Lifting a flap on the block-shaped enclosed body reveals a complex operating area comprising scale [display], tuning knobs and connection jacks whose diversity contrasts with the smooth, uniform exterior. You already gain a sense of the big, wide world of shortwave opening up through eight shortwave radio bands in addition to long wave and medium wave.

Obviously, Rams's philosophy goes far beyond simply being in the right place at the right time—otherwise, he wouldn't be the man from whom Apple has basically stolen every one of its product designs in the last ten years—most notably the iPhone 4, which is stunningly Rams-ian, with its metal edges and round buttons.

So to satisfy your appetite for a little more meat, here's two unmissable interviews with Rams himself, where he talks about what motivated some of his best-known designs:

Check out the Gizmodo post, then the book, at Amazon.

And don't miss our slideshow of Rams's work.

[Photograph by Luke Hayes, courtesy of the Design Museum]

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  • Leslie

    I think what Apple has done is at the core of the creative process... to be inspired by others. Sure, aspects of their designs are inspired by Rams' work, but I think "stolen" is a bit harsh.It is Rams' philosophy and esthetic that they have embraced and built upon.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @JB--Great points, all. Obvs, the process of inspiration and influence is a subtle one. Chalk up my writing to dashing off a post too quickly. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Ryan--Thanks for reading and commenting! Was meaning to be facetious and hyperbolic. Obvs don't really believe that. But was Apple heavily influenced by Rams? Definitely

  • J.B. Chaykowsky

    I agree with Ryan. Another example of a blog trolling for hits and most likely comments (bravo you got me) using a very uneducated byline and exaggerated controversy.

    Design is constantly being updated based on the designers own philosophy - a philosophy that has been inspired from other designers and creatives.

    I personally recall a lot of Rams' designed products having a tremendous amount of buttons and to be honest they lacked intuitiveness. (The excerpt to the left also seems to suggest this.) Sure it looked great but too many knobs and buttons creates confusion. Obviously Ives gained inspiration from Dieter and that it permeates through his work - but to say that he has "stolen" "design" (ill get to that later) is preposterous especially considering the translucent first iMac and hockey puck mouse that lived until 2002. After that it was the sunflower iMac.

    Rams also applauded Apple in the Gary Hustwit film "Objectified".

    I would also like to say that "design" is not the final product. You cannot steal "design" because "design" is the process one would go through for the final solution. You steal aesthetic and even with that you cannot say Ives stole anything from anyone. Rams' simplification was merely a extension of the minimalist modernist movement that was taking the creative community at the time of his employment at Braun. He just did it better than everyone else for his career.

  • Ryan

    I think you're stretching things a bit claiming APple have "basically stolen every one of its product designs in the last ten years". Ive clearly follows the Rams philosophy on design; tearing things back to design lead by materials and the object not styles or trends. There are influences and similarities but no theft.