Very recently this author was immersed for three days in the world of the aesthetics of design. Dieter Rams’ name came up.
Deiter Rams worked as Braun’s chief designer, having a desk there from 1961 to 1995. It occurred to me that I agree with the whole lot of Rams’ principles which are opposed to zany, aggressive styling and yet I am a known liker of cars such as the Nissan Juke and Toyota CH-R.
People will also know of other zany and aggresssive designs which offend to a degree and I don’t dislike all of them. I have come to accept some zaniness is quite okay (maybe it’s resignation). Is there any way I can find a way to resolve this mess of contradictions. Can I agree with Rams and like things like the Juke? Is there a mess of contradictions at all?
Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of “Good Design” (source) are shown at the end of the article. Behind Rams’ principles is the idea of respect for the customer and this is a form of ethics. “I don’t support dull or boring design but I do take a stand against the ruthless exploitation of people’s weaknesses for visual and haptic signals …. The festival of
colors and forms and the entertainment of form sensations enlarges the world’s chaos,” wrote Rams in 1984.
Rams also was concerned with design that worsens people’s tendencies: “Of the many issues that confront designers, the increase in violence seems to be the most threatening. Destructive, aggressive tendencies are gaining momentum and counteract the idea on which design was founded. … I work in the hope of designing objects that are useful and convincing enough to be accepted and lived with for a long time in a very obvious, natural way. But such objects do not fit into a world of vandalism, aggression, and cynicism.”
Here I bring in exhibit A:
And here is exhibit B:
When juxtaposed, it’s not hard to see the 1990s cars as conforming very much to Rams’ ideals. And the A6 is still a fine car to look at today. You can only call the later car very assertive, aggressive and pushy.
If we widen the pool of designs and turn to some of the other rather busy cars I have been on record as not hating:
Without wanting to dodge criticism, can we allow that if the Juke is not the last word in simplicity, it is not aggressive. You may disagree.
Here’s another look at the CH-R:
That isn’t going to pass any part of Deiter Rams’s social contract view of design, I have to admit.
If we want to save the designer from having to redesign this endlessly…
…. we perhaps might want to make sure the faces of cars are not so angry as the Audi and CH-R. Or indeed the Nissan Leaf:
…which car is very much erring on the side of overly busy and aggressive around the snout.
The lesson to designers is to ease off on the frowning, glaring front end and tidy up the flanks somewhat. Think of it as a design challenge.
Post-Script: Dieter Rams was another of the German designers from the Ulm School of Design. The retirement of this generation of designers has opened the way for a new cohort who are reacting against the calm shapes preferred by their predecesors. Or else the demand for busier shapes from newer markets has not been resisted.
1. Good Design Is Innovative : The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
2. Good Design Makes a Product Useful : A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
3. Good Design Is Aesthetic : The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
4. Good Design Makes A Product Understandable : It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
5. Good Design Is Unobtrusive : Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
6. Good Design Is Honest : It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept
7. Good Design Is Long-lasting : It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
8. Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail : Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
9. Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly : Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
10. Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible : Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.