December 28, 2011


If your secret lair or bachelor pad has a modernist vibe, employing minimal Ikea shelving systems or Apple computer products, your environment owes a lot to German industrial designer, Dieter Rams. Rams, who is recently retired, was the visionary behind decades of sleek and functional gadgets produced by Braun and home organization and furniture by Visoe. If you're like me, you might have grown up in a household filled with Rams-designed clocks, coffee grinders and coffee-makers, juicers, hair dryers, and electric razors. Rams also designed cameras, and my favorite, a long line of stereo components and speakers. The philosophy that tied his work together was the notion that objects should be created to be instantly understood and useful. His pieces had a beautiful simplicity and functionality that were a direct inspiration for Apple products. In his foreword to a new book about Rams, Apple designer Jonathan Ive said, “surfaces that were without apology, bold, pure, perfectly-proportioned, coherent and effortless. No part appeared to be either hidden or celebrated, just perfectly considered and completely appropriate in the hierarchy of the product’s details and features. At a glance, you knew exactly what it was and exactly how to use it (Examiner)."

The exhibit, Less is More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams, is currently running at SFMOMA until February 20th. If you are not in the Bay area, I encourage Spy Vibers to try to catch this show before it's gone. From SFMOMA: "Widely regarded as one of the most influential industrial designers of our time, Dieter Rams produced iconic works and innovative ideas (in particular his advocacy for "less but better" design) that have proved seminal for our contemporary design culture. For more than 40 years, Rams was the lead designer for the German household appliance company Braun. He has also been the active designer for German furniture company Vitsœ since his start there in 1959. This exhibition includes more than 200 models and objects by Rams and his team, as well as contemporary designs influenced by his Ten Principles of Good Design, such as Apple computers."

Here are some preview images I made at the museum to share with Spy Vibers. The piece that excited me most was his 1956 record player, the SK4 (image #6 below). When the original sheet metal hood rattled at higher volumes, Rams suggested using a transparent plastic lid- a material that only recently had appeared on the market. Detractors thought the plastic hood was too much in line with temporary fashion (see Spy Vibe's article Fear and Fashion), and the SK4 was nicknamed "Snow White's Coffin". Of course, the clear cover became ubiquitous around the world and changed the look of turntables forever. To learn more, check out the books, Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible, Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams, Braun- Fifty Years of Design and Innovation
. There is also a short video presentation with Rams at SFMOMA on Vimeo. Portrait above from the nice overview post, Who is Dieter Rams?


  1. Beautiful photos! Braun made a very nice line of speakers back in the day-- blonde wood, crisp sound, gray cloth (or foam?) covers. They made gray a stylish color.

  2. true! you might also like the new Libratone speakers, which include a slate grey speaker cover made from Italian wool. Info at DWR here: