Dieter Rams is an iconic German designer perhaps best known for his work at Braun where he helped design a wide range of products, from record players to slide projectors, coffee makers and radios. Indeed, a number of Rams’ designs now take up residence in various museums across the globe.
Apple of course is no stranger to innovative design, and Apple’s chief hardware designer, Jonathan Ive, has said quite consistently that Rams has always been one of his inspirations. Indeed, many of Rams ten principles of design are overtly evident in many products.
With Apple design folks alluding to Rams so often, one naturally wonders what Rams thinks about Apple.
A few weeks ago, Rams answered that very question during an interview conducted ahead of the release of his new book, As little design as possible.
I have always regarded Apple products – and the kind words Jony Ive has said about me and my work – as a compliment. Without doubt there are few companies in the world that genuinely understand and practise the power of good design in their products and their businesses…
I have always observed that good design can normally only emerge if there is a strong relationship between an entrepreneur and the head of design. At Apple this situation exists – between Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. This was the case at Braun where I always reported to Erwin and Artur Braun or, after their departure, the chairman of the board. It is the same in my relationship with the furniture manufacturer, Vitsoe, where I worked closely with the founder Niels Vitsoe and, since his death, Mark Adams – a period now spanning more than 50 years.
I am always fascinated when I see the latest Apple products. Apple has managed to achieve what I never achieved: using the power of their products to persuade people to queue to buy them. For me, I had to queue to receive food at the end of World War II. That’s quite a change.
I am troubled by the devaluing of the word ‘design’. I find myself now being somewhat embarrassed to be called a designer. In fact I prefer the German term, Gestalt-Ingenieur. Apple and Vitsoe are relatively lone voices treating the discipline of design seriously in all corners of their businesses. They understand that design is not simply an adjective to place in front of a product’s name to somehow artificially enhance its value. Ever fewer people appear to understand that design is a serious profession; and for our future welfare we need more companies to take that profession seriously.