I went to see the Dieter Rams exhibition at the design museum featuring the products of Braun and it reminded me of how a successful business can thrive with great design and how meddling marketers and managers more concerned with the concept of shareholder value than focusing on providing something of value to consumers can be like a cancer in a business (yes, I am talking about you Gillette and Procter & Gamble).
Rams work becomes more relevant as time moves on: the aluminum tower units of Apple’s professional Macintosh range borrowed their perforated grills from Braun’s shortwave radios made some 40 years earlier. Have a look at the calculator application that comes with the iPhone, its no coincidence that it looks Braun’s original calculator range. (Apple’s love affair with German design is continued with the icon for Apple’s Remote Desktop software: a set of Leica Trinovid binoculars).
Despite his well-documented distain of computers, Rams’ philosophy on product design could be equally well for web services.
Dieter Rams’ ten Principles of good design are well-documented:
- Good design is innovative.
- Good design makes a product useful.
- Good design is aesthetic.
- Good design makes a product understandable.
- Good design is unobtrusive.
- Good design is honest.
- Good design is long-lasting.
- Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
- Good design is environmentally friendly.
- Good design is as little design as possible.
The exhibition highlighted some other quotes from Rams resonated with me:
A product must not claim features – more innovative, more efficient, of higher value – it does not have. It must not influence or manipulate buyers and users.
This could have been taken straight out of The Cluetrain Manifesto.
There is no longer room for irrelevant things. We have no longer got the resources. Irrelevance is out.
This is more like an internet users charter.
Talking about the furniture that he designed for Vistoe:
Furniture is a commodity – and not the content of life in itself. Furnishings that are an end in themselves, that impose themselves, and grab your attention are oppressive.
Now if more web service took this advice more services would play nicely and we wouldn’t suffer from social media overload.