Dieter Rams: The Complete Works takes readers right back to the beginning of the designer’s career and his earliest surviving work – a sketch of a Z-shaped chair drawn by Rams in 1947 (a scale model of which was only made in 1952). From there the book traces the development of the designer’s career, from portable radios and pieces of furniture through to the iconic Braun and Vitsoe pieces he’s known and loved for.
Each design is accompanied by a short description, which delves into the back story of the piece as well as the materials used. The chronological arrangement allows readers to see the gradual emergence of Rams’ distinctive minimal approach – which has been a major influence for designers and creatives of all kinds, not least Apple’s Jonathan Ive.
Rams has written an introduction to the book, which delves a bit deeper into his own design philosophy. “Design is not just about the formal design of our Dingwelt, our ‘world of things’, it determines the life of every individual and how we all live with one another,” he writes.
The essay questions the potentially damaging influence of design, and the responsibility designers have. Rams recommends designers ask themselves difficult questions about whether the product they’re creating is necessary, and whether it improves lives or merely boosts status.
He writes: “Is it repairable? Is it durable? Easy to use and flexible in its use? Can I master it easily or does the new product dominate me? That last question is one I find particularly relevant today. The primary insight I have gained in my 60 years as a designer, and through my experiences with both companies and end users, is a simple one: ‘Less, but better.’”
There’s plenty more pearls of wisdom in his introduction, which feels very much a timely response to current conversations around waste and sustainability. And for those that want to delve further into Rams’ career, there’s also an essay by art historian Klaus Klemp that explores the designer’s influence.
Dieter Rams: The Complete Works is published by Phaidon, priced £39.95; phaidon.com