Designing with Purpose: The Influence of Dieter Rams
Designing with purpose is essential. It requires one to think deeply about how a consumer is going to experience a product. How does it make one feel? Does it convey its functions simply? What value does it add? These are questions we ask ourselves every time we design a product at Blackinkk. But there's a number of influences behind the philosophy of our minimal leather wallets.
Today we explore a design leader that has influenced us immensely — Dieter Rams. As head designer of Braun and Vitsœ, he contributed marvels of industrial design that fused functionality with beauty and made it accessible to the masses.
We'll explore his early influences, significant designs and guiding principles as well as connecting them to our own products.
PATRON OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGN
Even if you are unfamiliar with his name, there is an undeniable chance that an appliance in your home or office has been touched by his tenets of design.
Born in 1932, Dieter Rams is a German architect turned industrial designer who worked at consumer products company Braun from 1961 to 1995. He was strongly influenced by Bauhaus design style as an architect and brought this school of thought to consumer product design.
The simplest way to summarise his impact on design was he made Braun the “Apple” of its time.
Products he designed included radios, shavers, juicers, clocks, record players and many more. Each was beautiful, unobtrusive and simple to use. Rams has also been head designer for furniture company Vitsœ since 1959.
He had a strong belief in a "Less, but better" methodology created many modern classic designs and influenced the design of many other products, including one famous portable music player.
IMPACT IN THE 21ST CENTURY
One of the biggest patrons of Ram's philosophy is Jony Ive. In 1977, he was appointed by Steve Jobs to lead the industrial design team at Apple. Growing up using Braun products, he was compelled by how extremely well made and simple to use their products were. This encouraged him to pursue a similar approach to designing the products at Apple.
Take a look at the Dieter Rams designed T3 transistor radio that was originally released in 1958 with an early iteration of the iPod. Both express an austere aesthetic and user-friendliness, with curved edges and circular dial to operate.
Another homage Apple made to Dieter Rams was the design of their smartphone calculator app, which closes resembles the 1977 Braun ET44 and ET66 calculators.
Each now icons of design in their own right, it shows the possibilities of bringing simplicity and style to everyday objects.
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNT ABOUT TIMELESS DESIGN
Blackinkk shares the same beliefs of simplicity and sustainability.
Our design process begins on paper, drawing ideas and playing with concepts. In fact, the inspiration to create the Bi-fold Card Wallet originally came from an in-flight magazine article on origami. After drawing, we create prototypes to assess proportions and layout.
Every nuance of the design is tested and analysed. Do cards fit snug? Can we add a lip to make it easier to retrieve cash? Only once we've refined the details does it go to production.
We source our materials locally, including vegetable-tanned kangaroo leather that's made in family tanneries across Australia. Kangaroo leather has superior strength and durability so withstand the challenges of everyday use and mould to its surroundings.
Then they are carefully assembled by our master craftsman Gil, who has his own leatherwork studio in Mount Beauty, Victoria. This is followed by any customisation requests or monogramming before being placed into environmentally-friendly packaging and delivered swiftly to its new lucky owner.
Dieter Rams designs have humility and eschew ego in favour of serving the end-user.
We strive to do the same at Blackinkk — hidden beneath the minimalist exterior is hours of careful consideration about the habits of our customers — resulting in a wonderful product that lasts.
DIETER RAMS' TEN PRINCIPLES FOR GOOD DESIGN
Rams infused functionality and aesthetic into each of his designs, focusing on removing anything that distracted the user from its purpose. There were his 10 guiding principles for good design:
Good design is innovative. Technology and design move in tandem, the former providing new opportunities for the latter.
Good design makes a product useful. A product is bought to be used. Good design emphasises this usefulness, whilst disregarding anything that detracts from it.
Good design is aesthetic. A product’s aesthetic quality has an effect on the people that use it. It’s an integral part of its usefulness.
Good design makes a product understandable. Its function should be self-explanatory.
Good design is unobtrusive. Products that fulfil a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art.
Good design is honest. It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is.
Good design is long-lasting. It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
Good design is environmentally friendly. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
Good design is as little design as possible. Less, but better — because it concentrates on the essential aspects.
PHILOSOPHY OF A MINIMAL LEATHER WALLET
Blackinkk is an Australian leather goods business that makes minimal, sustainable and thoughtfully designed products. We approach design from a minimalist perspective, focused on stripping away anything this isn’t necessary and focusing on the essential.
This year represents growth and new beginnings for us. Recently refreshing our branding and launching two new designs to our classic collection is a sign of exciting things to come.
Wallets are something we carry with us every day, serving both a functional and stylistic purpose. It tells a story about the owner — what do you want your story to tell?
To learn more about Dieter Rams, we recommend watching the documentary “Rams” directed by esteemed documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit.
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