Winter 2009

Less made bigger

Less and more – the design ethos of Dieter Rams

The Design Museum, until 7 March 2010

An exhibition of product design presents its curators with a challenge – showing objects on tables and stands runs the risk of turning the museum into a glorified retro shop.

Yet the thing about Dieter Rams’ product design for Braun is that it resists glorification by its very nature. His toasters, shavers and radios slip into your life like old friends.

‘Less and more – the design ethos of Dieter Rams’ (Design Museum, London until 7 March 2010) emphasises the items’ graphic nature, in contrast to the original Japanese show.

Here, exhibition designers Bibliothèque have enlarged Rams’ fascias for gadgets such as radios and calculators. A huge painting of a radiogram (above) fills the far wall, with tone arms, dials and frequencies reproduced in graphic detail. Large panels, in Vitsœ fittings (also by Rams) bang home the message: ‘My aim is to omit everything superfluous … I hate everything that is driven by fashion.’

With an attitude like that, you can’t get much more current, and Rams’ Ten Principles of Design’ are being blogged and re-Tweeted all over the Web. Bibliothèque have set these as both a poster and stairwell mural, juxtaposing Rams’ wise words with hyper-real renditions – a hybrid of vector art and product photography.

Sure, it’s design about design, but few subjects make a better argument for design as both function and form. As designer Sam Hecht explains on a video screens: ‘Rams’ products are instinctively intuitive.’

First published in Eye no. 74 vol. 19 2009


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.