More often than I care to admit, I serendipitously stumble across something highly inspiring that it could be argued I should have already known about. Something that’s been right under my nose, perhaps even had a great influence on me, but of which I’ve not previously been keenly aware.

606 shelving system606 shelving system
Travel alarm clockAs a child, I was captivated by perfectly utilitarian simplicity of my dad’s travel alarm clock (designed by Rams for Braun in 1971), well before I even comprehended the existence of “design”

In a fitting start to the new year, my recent discovery has been Dieter Rams. Now, I’ve known of his work since before I even fully understood what design was. But I have to admit until stumbling across a random web link recently, I didn’t grasp the full breadth of his work, or the true importance of his design thinking. (Indeed, it’s opined that he’s an immeasurable influence on modern-day design rockstar Jonathan Ive, of whom I’m a huge fan.)

The oft-reproduced 1960's image of Dieter Rams, holding what I can only assume is the earliest prototype of the iPodThe oft-reproduced 1960’s image of Dieter Rams, holding what I can only assume is the earliest prototype of the iPod

Dieter Rams is best known for his ubiquitous industrial design for Braun from the 1960’s through the 1990’s, and for designing the brilliant 606 Universal Shelving System, but I’ll leave the biographical details to Wikipedia. Aside from his unmatched legacy of artifacts, it’s his timeless design philosophy that truly inspires me. Rams uses the phrase “Weniger, aber beset” to describe his design thinking: Less, but better. It’s the precise dictate we’ve been following at Oxide since the day I opened the doors, we just didn’t have his perfectly succinct words for it.

You don't have to be an aficionado of mid-century modern design to appreciate the clarity Rams employs in his product designYou don’t have to be an aficionado of mid-century modern design to appreciate the clarity Rams employs in his product design

In the early 1980’s, Dieter Rams shared the ten most important principles for what he considered good design. Refined only slightly to reflect all design (rather than just product design), these are absolutely the ten core guideposts we look to every day at Oxide to determine if we’re solving problems in the best way possible:

  1. Good design is innovative.
  2. Good design is useful.
  3. Good design is aesthetic.
  4. Good design is understandable.
  5. Good design is unobtrusive.
  6. Good design is honest.
  7. Good design is long-lasting.
  8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
  9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
  10. Good design is as little design as possible.

The only addendum I’d make to Rams’ list is that Great design meets all ten criteria.