Dieter Rams is the most important and influential designer of the post war era. As head of design at Braun, the German consumer electronics manufacturer, he revolutionised the design of domestic technology and developed a design language that married technical innovation with a strict formal and functional elegance.
Born in Wiesbaden in Germany in 1932, he first joined Braun in 1954 as an architect and interior designer but soon moved into product design. In his forty-year stretch at Braun he designed (or oversaw the design of) hundreds of products from audio equipment, coffee makers, calculators and cigarette lighters to electric shavers. For Vitsoe he designed the 606 shelving system and 620 chair.
He was radical in his use of materials but always determined on designing products that were fundamentally honest, as simple to use as possible and that worked as well as possible. Many of his designs are icons of modernist rigour but have exerted an influence far beyond the design cognoscenti (the debt owed Rams - and they would be the first to acknowledge it - by designers such as Jonathan Ive, Naoto Fukasawa and Jasper Morrison is enormous). Indeed, much of the stuff that surrounds you looks a lot like it does because of Dieter Rams.
In the edition of Wallpaper* guest-edited by Rams, he presents his ten commandments of good design and illustrates them by art-directing a 16-page photo shoot of all his favourite products. He invites us to his home near Frankfurt, and in conversation with Japan's greatest living designer (and Rams disciple) Naoto Fukasawa, he discusses Braun versus Olivetti, Jonathan Ive and the wonders of bonsai. The subject of his art-directed cover shot is of one of Rams' greatest yet little-seen designs.
Speaking of his involvement, Rams said, 'Now, more than ever, when industrial design as a discipline seems to have lost touch with a clarity of purpose and focus, it is time to perhaps get back to a core of principles and strip away the superfluous once again.'