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Dieter Rams ‘Less and More’ – more required.

March 26, 2010

This exhibition was a tad disappointing. It was fascinating to have an opportunity to view such an extensive collection of the designer’s work; indeed Rams’ position as a highly influential product designer isn’t diminished by this show. Ultimately however, this meticulous, studiously laid-out collection of work felt a little too ordered, too consistent and, dare I say, repetitive.

The show ostensibly comprised a large selection of Braun shavers, hair dryers, coffee percolators, coffee grinders and other household electrical products. Older visitors will remember some of these items when originally manufactured and sold in the seventies and eighties, and the of-the-time packaging and advertising campaigns crafted around them. These products were covetable objects of desire and function and generally of superior build quality. My first electric shaver (exhibited) performed better and lasted longer than two subsequent, more expensive models, ironically also from Braun. We know that Rams is an important and highly influential designer, so some information contextualizing the general design of handheld domestic products around this period would have been useful, but none was provided. Two video displays ran short insightful pieces, but both were oversubscribed and constantly engaged, such was the dearth of supporting material. Cynics might argue this helps drive book sales though.

Of greater interest were the audio, video and cine products displayed, many of which weren’t (by my recollection) marketed in the UK. Inherently more complex, these devices are better able to demonstrate Rams’ individual design rationale and approach, for example, his use of colour and order to convey operational hierarchy and function. For those interested in such things, these products also enable a much greater ease of comparison against similar products coming to market around the same period, from manufacturers such as Grundig, Philips, Bang and Olufsen and Sony. At this time all of these consumer product leviathans were demonstrating strong individual design identity, and some supporting material explaining and contextualizing this would have been useful and higly interesting.

Ergonomics in Design

Overall, it was striking how many products sat within a hard rectilinear or strongly defined form-factor, with perhaps less consideration given to tactility or the inner workings of the device. This was particularly evident with the cine camera designs. Looking at such bold, uncompromising forms it’s easy to appreciate how the science of ergonomics was an emerging consideration, which was made more apparent by the adjoining show on ergonomics in design – surely not a coincidence and an interesting juxtaposition.

Ultimately this was a fine collection of Rams’ products but there was insufficient supporting material to come away with an understanding of the designer himself, or the full extent to which he influenced product design.

Brit Insurance Designs of the Year 2010

The main exhibition also showing, Brit Insurance Designs of the Year 2010 was a revelation A showcase for the most innovative design across disciplines, this show comprised wide ranging collection of designed products from concept developments to art installations. The folding plug is genius. Highly recommend.

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