18.11.2016 – 12.03.2017
Vitra Schaudepot, Temporary Space
Dieter Rams (born 1932) is one of the most influential German designers of the past decades. His designs for the Braun company are legendary, and his design principles are more relevant today than ever. From 18 November 2016 to 12 March 2017, the Vitra Design Museum is presenting an exhibition of Rams’ work in the newly opened Vitra Schaudepot. »Dieter Rams: Modular World« features a selection of the furnishings and electrical appliances designed by Rams, including key works such as the phonograph »Snow White’s Coffin« and the 606 Universal Shelving System. The show is supplemented by historic visual material and a video interview in which Rams discusses his design philosophy.
»Dieter Rams: Modular World« is the first exhibition to put a primary focus on Rams’ furniture designs, demonstrating how closely they are linked to his design philosophy. Rams summarised their essential characteristics – simplicity, honesty, timelessness – in his »Ten Principles for Good Design«, which he began to formulate in the 1970s. In one of them he states: »Good design is long-lasting. It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.« The starting point for these deliberations was a fundamental criticism of consumerism, which motived Rams to articulate new goals for the practise of design – long before sustainability became a buzzword.
Rams’ ten principles are also a useful source for gaining a better understanding of his multifaceted design activities. From 1955 to 1997 he was head of product design for the German manufacturer Braun. The legendary electrical appliances that have repeatedly been cited in recent years as inspiration for the design of Apple products originated here. Less well known is the fact that Rams also developed furniture beginning as early as 1957. His work in this area was primarily for the Vitsoe company, which continues to produce his designs today. Looking back, Rams explains that furniture design was very important to him: »Perhaps even more directly than with the Braun appliances, my furniture arose from a belief in how the world should be ›outfitted‹ and how people should live in this artificial environment. In this respect, each piece of furniture is also a design for a certain kind of world and way of living«.
Rams’ designs are distinguished by their reductiveness and simplicity, based on the maxim »Good design is as little design as possible.« His intention is not a pure asceticism, however, but an aesthetic sustainability. His shelf systems, seating furniture and tables are so functional and quietly neutral in appearance that they can be used in many different areas – living rooms, kitchens, offices or public spaces – and remain current even today. Many of his furnishings are conceived as modular systems that can adapt to the changing living conditions of the owner. The famous 606 Universal Shelving System, for instance, has been continuously produced since 1962, and it is possible to combine modules manufactured today with a shelf system from the 1960s. The armchair from the 620 series, to cite another example, comes as a one-, two- or three-seater and can be fitted with different side and back panels. The 740 furniture system, one of Rams’ least familiar designs, is based on round stacking elements that were inspired by Japanese sitting mats – even today a captivatingly simple design concept.
Due to their timeless quality, Rams’ products are exemplars of sustainability and continue to exert an influence on contemporary designers.
Dieter Rams, »Ten Principles of Good Design«
1. Good design is innovative.
The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
2. Good design makes a product useful.
A product is bough 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.
3. Good design is aesthetic.
The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
4. Good design makes a product understandable.
It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.
5. Good design is honest.
It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
6. 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 users’s self-expression.
7. Good design is long-lasting.
It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect
towards the consumer.
9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
10. Good design is as little design as possible.
Less but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with inessentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity!
(Source: Sophie Lovell, »Dieter Rams. As Little Design as Possible«, 2011)
Title: Dieter Rams. Modular World
Curator: Heng Zhi
Place: Vitra Schaudepot, Charles-Eames-Straße 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein
Duration: 18 November 2016 – 12 March 2017
Opening: 17 November 2016, 6pm
Opening hours: daily from 10am – 6pm
Futher information: www.design-museum.de
Social media hashtags: #dieterrams #modularworld #lessbutbetter #schaudepot #vitradesignmuseum
Press images: High-res photos are available at: http://www.design-museum.de/press_images
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