September 3, 2011

10 Principles of Modern Design...

... from Dieter Rams (who was chief of design for Braun — the German manufacturer — from 1961 to 1995).

Oddly, I came away feeling that the 10 principles were all the same, and if that principle was simple functionality, the make that one thing into 10 is a violation of the principle itself. But then Rams wasn't purporting to dictate the principles of website content, so there really is no paradox.


ndspinelli said...

"Would you like to touch my monkey?" Dieter

ambisinistral said...

Heh -- I was amused by number 9, "Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly", where they predictably couldn't resist the urge to toss in an enviro platitude.

All the article is doing is restating Louis Sullivan's "form follows function, that's the law" over and over again.

Of course, even that's not always true.

ricpic said...

Doesn't matter how sleek you get, the inner sanctum of pure modernity is denied you until you acquire an ebon child.

edutcher said...

There's a book, "The Evolution of Useful Things", which goes hand in glove with these concepts (although, the principle about being environmentally friendly sounds less timeless and more PC).

pst314 said...

From the article:

"A Flaw, But Who Cares?
This detail of Rams's mixer makes clear how gorgeous it is ... while zooming in on one of its flaws: the mixer relies on a special bowl that turns because gears on its inside edge engage with teeth on the mixer itself; those gears make the bowl very hard to keep clean."

This violates one of Dieter Rams' other principles: "Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it."

This contradiction reveals the true soul of modern design: A hostility to decoration and beauty.

pst314 said...

"PRINCIPLE 5: Good Design 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."

If Deiter Rams had tried to persuade, say, the ancient Vikings of such a mechanistic and soulless doctrine, they would have embedded this axe in one of his boring products.

Scott said...

His ten principles aren't profound. They're trite. They articulate the blitheringly obvious.

Never trust lists of tens or twelves. (Not even the Ten Commandments or the Twelve Steps.) They hold a mystical fascination to people in Western cultures. People who write lists of tens or twelves are just trying to borrow their mojo. If Mr. Rams had a list of 9 or 11 principles, he'd have more cred.

wv: hangen

Scott said...

@pst314: Sometimes good design is supposed to be obtrusive. I am so glad he didn't design highway safety barriers.

wv: uneodo

edutcher said...

Scott said...

His ten principles aren't profound. They're trite. They articulate the blitheringly obvious.

Astounding how many people miss them.

Rick Lee said...

I don't pretend to think that my tastes are universal, but the Braun design fits my taste perfectly. That clock is so perfect it makes me weepy. I own one that I got in the 80s but I'd like to have a few more... but it seems you can't buy them now. What a drag.

Simon said...

Titling a style "modern" always seemed a foolish conceit to me. A conceit because that which was called "modern" in the 1960s looked by no means modern within a few decades, and foolish because by refusing to label the style, you allow others to label it. For example, those 1960s buildings that the architects are now called "60s modernism" by some but "ugly crap waiting for demolition" by most people.

If you were to walk onto SMW's beautiful campus, you'd be hard-pressed to say when every building but two were erected, and with no information beyond looking at them, you'd be able to date those remaining two within five years without hesitation. The mistake was forgivable the first time around, but architects don't seem to be getting any smarter. Instead of adhering to timeless forms, they're making the same errors as their 60s brethren, and in just a few decades, I fancy that many buildings now described as "modern" will look horrendously dated and precisely datable. The same goes for all engineering—the iPhone looks slick now, but in thirty years, people will look at it the way we now look at those clunky 80s carphones—but engineering can at least claim that form is dictated by function.

Personally, I think postconstructivism is a style whose time has come: Neoclassical forms with greatly-simplified detail.

Carol_Herman said...

A good coffee grinder is a burr grinder. (It looks like Braun did that). Mine is a Kitchen Aid. Before this I used the kind of grinder that whirls blades around. Good enough to grind herbs. Terrible at grinding coffee.

While it seems time, itself, marches on. As some of the businesses came and then went. Like phonographs. And, phonograph records.

Happened to Polaroid. Happened to Kodak. Happened to tape machines.

My mom had a philosophy that even when you were lucky, and your business did well ... It was going to arc downward.

And, then, she told me the guy who owned Nathan's (in Coney Island), was illiterate. Educating people to read and right was not (and is not) universal. But he became wealthy. Because he was brilliant at business. (And, taking risks.) It surprised his banker, though, that he couldn't read and write.

Sometimes, too, people get their ideas ripped off. Sylvania light bulbs ... was taken from a man who had survived the Holocaust. But his light bulb idea was stolen.

Very talented people don't always own the business savvy to become rich. That's just reality.

Sometimes? We give too freely of our trust.

roesch-voltaire said...

Along with Sullivan of form follow function,the philosophy of "less is more' was proposed by Mies van der Rohe and his skin and bones architecture which permeated the Bauhuas School of design. Today we tack on the need to follow product development from beginning to end as part of our concern for the environment and the huge amount of material and electronic waste we produce. I like the coffee grinders but prefer the dials on a Mcintosh amp to the system shown here.

Tim said...

As someone who actually designs commercial products (musical instruments) as part of his living, I have absolutely no patience with this bullshit.

This is nonsense for people with too much time on their hands. Everybody thinks that by reading this crap they have attained some insight. This is nothing but pandering to make people feel good about themselves so they will buy tickets to the exhibit or whatever.

You think you know something about design?


I'll sit you down in front of a computer with a CAD program you barely understand (It turns out nobody really understands it that well), give you a complex, technically mind-bending set of design criteria that take 20 years, at least, in the industry to have the faintest idea what they mean, and ask you to come up with something for prototype manufacturing to try out next week after Friday's meeting. We'll need complete geometry for all parts for programming, and, while you're at it, make up something like a bill of materials for CRM to work up some preliminary routers and cost estimates. Oh, and by the way, we have to make it competitive with the Chinese and make a 40% gross margin, at least, otherwise you might as well try another line of work.

That, folks, is REAL industrial design. It's played for keeps.

But, by all means, keep developing your minds on the internet. You never know when they might come in handy for something.

Sixty Grit said...

Carol_Underscore wrote "Educating people to read and right was not (and is not) universal."

Bless her heart.

Coketown said...

I read this list when Jon Ives, Apple's chief designer, mentioned them. He's a disciple of Dieter Rams'. Here's an interesting YouTube video showing some of the many similarities Ives' designs share with Rams'. My favorite is the portable radio vs. iPod.

There's a pretty big market for 60's/70's era electronics and appliances because of their simple and classic designs. The shift from European and American electronics and appliances to Japanese was a disaster starting in the 80's. Asian design isn't exactly known for its simplicity or elegance. Everything that comes out of Japan looks like a Cylon baseship. Or it's boring as hell, like the Camry.

I think appliance companies know this and for a while have gone retro with their designs. I have a Kitchenaid toaster that looks like it's from the 60's: brushed gunmetal outside; symmetrical buttons; rounded, almost train-like shape; no digital buttons or read-outs. I love it.

Carol_Herman said...

The second time I repeated "write" ... I used the right one.

By the way what got stolen by Sylvania was the flashbulb. You don't need them, anymore.

But when flashbulbs popped ... nobody wanted the glass to explode.

Then, of course, I remember the "cube." More than one flashbulb. Because as one went off. the "cube" rotated. And, the film had to be cranked forward.

All that ingenuity is now gone from service.

Palladian said...

I still use the tiny Braun travel alarm model AB1 that my uncle gave me so many years ago.

But give me Achille over Dieter any day....

Astro said...

Gee, a cheap shot at Westinghouse plus:

"Apple's lean iMac, iPhone, iPad—iAnything—wouldn't even exist, without Braun's example."

... Except it was the engineers at XEROX PARC that invented the GUI interface that made Apple such a success. Not the plastic wrapper.

Somehow all of this just reminds me of AlGore's infamous 'I invented the internet' claim. I wonder if the writer ever heard of Raymond Loewy.

Captain Curt said...

I can't read this without thinking about the couple of Braun toasters my wife has purchased over the years. Both sleek and elegant looking, but...

The first had a single large heating element on each side with a reflector behind instead of the traditional zigzag array of heating wire. The reflector was supposed to disperse the heat over the bread, but of course, it could do nothing about the direct path from the element to the toast. I put up with years of toast with a dark stripe down the middle.

The next one was even better looking than the first, but it only had a heating element on one side of the bread. The other side had a reflector, but of course, this was blocked by the toast. This one, I insisted my wife take back. The clerk at the department store was wondering why so many people were returning the toaster.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Too bad Braun couldn't design a coffee grinder that doesn't sound like the F-15 flight line at Eglin AFB.