We talk to James Day and Gem Fletcher about the project and why Dieter Rams’ designs have such an enduring appeal.
Creative Review: What is it about Rams’ work that you wanted to explore in the series?
James Day: I have always loved the stylish simplicity of Rams’ designs for Braun, ever since I was given the classic alarm clock for my tenth birthday. I love the way he takes everyday, yet important objects in our lives and refines their design to its core elements while maintaining a strong and consistent aesthetic.
CR: How did you go about choosing the products to feature? What were the criteria for inclusion?
JD: We had an initial list of Braun designs that we were able to choose from and myself and art director Gem Fletcher selected the 20 products we felt were most interesting and iconic.
CR: How did you source the products?
JD: We had support from the brilliant team at [shelving company] Vitsoe, who recently received a donation of pristine Rams Braun designs from The Strong Collection. Tom Strong, an American, had been collecting Rams’ Braun electrical products for over 50 years – [he had] over 250 items. I got in touch with the lovely Julia Schulz at Vitsoe who very kindly agreed to loan me some of the collection for this shoot.
CR: Talk us through the styling of the shoot and why you chose to shoot the products against such graphic, colourful backgrounds
Gem Fletcher: Our initial concept focused on a celebration of the graphic aesthetic of the individual products fused with 60s and 70s minimalist graphic design posters of the time.
We referenced designers such as Wim Crouwel and the Bauhaus [alumni]. We wanted to play with depth, dimension and shadow to create an exciting tension between product and environment. Our colour palette was directly inspired by Rams’ products, which helped unify the series.
I’d been following the work of an emerging set designer, Kei Yoshino, for some time and loved the playful sense of geometry in her work. We brought her on-board and worked together to design sets which tricked the eye in a simple, subtle and clever way while ensuring the product remained the hero.
The project was very involved. Due to the illusion aspect of the concept, each shot needed to be carefully thought through and planned out ahead of the shoot day. We were in production for about eight weeks; the project ran alongside our commercial commitments.
The entire set was handpainted; each product had its own unique painted environment, which was a considerable undertaking for Kei. She created a series of test paintings so we could ensure the scale and sense of depth could be achieved through the interplay between 2 and 3D. Once we were confident the concept would work, we spent three days shooting the story. To heighten the illusion, we spent a long time exploring angles and perspectives on each product, tweaking their position, height or angle until we got that sense of motion or ‘pull’ in the image.