“Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design.” (Dieter Rams)
It’s not often that a contemporary designer gets its dedicated, (almost) solo auction nowadays. Obviously, Dieter Rams is not just any contemporary designer – but arguably the most influential industrial designer of the past century. Chicago-based auction house Wright just wrapped up their” “Dieter Rams: The JF Chen Collection” sale, featuring over 130 works by the iconic designer and his colleagues. The pieces had previously been exhibited by antique dealer Joel Chen in one of his Los Angeles showrooms. The sales grossed over $99,000.
Dieter Rams’ body of work includes more than 500 objects and furniture designs — from coffee grinders and razors to stereo components and projectors to universal shelving and seating designs — that are admired around the globe. Despite the variety and volume, his works illustrate a cohesive adherence to his philosophy of what makes good design.
Refined over several years, Rams arrived at his often-cited 10 Principles of Good Design in 1985, though his production up until then already eloquently exhibited these ideas. From the quality of the product to their ease of use and their clean, simple aesthetic, Rams’ designs are created with the relationship between the user and product in mind.
Expanding upon the Bauhaus construct of form follows function, Rams places social consciousness and responsibility at the core of his design philosophy. In fact, each of Rams’ ten principles is rooted in the idea that good design can affect positive change, a characteristic that sets him apart.
This approach to design seems counter intuitive to today’s setting where flashy, disposable products have become the norm. But it is precisely this that makes his design memorable, covetable, lasting and influential. His designs feature a refined elegance that expresses a timelessness that resonates with us still. That is why Apple’s calculator app (designed for the iPhone 3) was based on Rams’ earlier design. It is also why half a century later, Vistoe continues to produce Rams’ furniture designs. Further, it is the reason why so many of us have memories of using and living with his products. And finally, it is why we collect his designs today.
“Dieter Rams succeeded in making his philosophy tangible by tying form and, ultimately, the relevance of mass production to his ideas. He remains utterly alone in producing a body of work so consistently beautiful, so right and so accessible”. — Jony Ives