Dieter Rams

(b. 1932)

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(1932– )

The clarity of form and minimalist design vocabulary associated with the German designer Dieter Rams is closely identified with the Braun company. Many of his designs for domestic appliances and audio equipment feature in the permanent collections of leading museums that collect and promote design, such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, which began to collect Braun products in 1958. After studying architecture at the Wiesbaden Academy of Applied Arts from 1947 to 1953 he spent three years as an apprentice cabinetmaker. This was followed by a period in architectural offices until he joined Braun in 1955. The clean, austere appearance associated with a functional aesthetic was epitomized by Rams's and Hans Gugelot's design of the Phonosuper SK4 radiogram of 1956, sometimes dubbed ‘Snow White's Coffin’. At this time he was also involved in furniture development with the designer, physicist, and entrepreneur Otto Zapf (born 1931). He became Braun's design director in 1960 and was responsible for establishing a cleanly stated and distinctive aesthetic for a wide range of products from kitchen appliances to alarm clocks, calculators, lighters, and electric razors. This aesthetic was also in tune with the outlook of the Hochschule für Gestaltung at Ulm, a progressive design academy with links to Braun that had been first established in 1954. Other companies with which Rams has been associated include the furniture manufacturer Vitsoe (established 1959), the door handle manufacturer FSB (established 1881), and the lighting producer Tecnolumen (established 1980). His clearly articulated and austere 606 shelf unit for Vitsoe (1960) remained in production for more than 40 years. He has held a number of academic posts including, from 1981, a professorship in industrial design in Hamburg. In 1987 he became president of the German Rat für Formgebung (Design Council), which for many years had promoted the values associated with ideas of ‘Good Design’. By this time many of the design values espoused by Rams were increasingly challenged by the content‐rich visual language associated with Postmodernism. Dieter Rams has received many international design awards throughout his career.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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