Dieter Rams says Apple has achieved what he never could with design

Dieter Rams holds a special place in the hearts of designers the world over. He has contributed more to the field of product design than perhaps any other single person in history. His innovative, beautiful, clean and simple design concepts have stood the test of time, and been the inspiration for the Mac Pro, Cinema Display, iMac, iPod, iPhone, and many other devices we use every day. He treated design as the vital core feature it is, rather than treating it as merely a trivial implementation detail.

A colossal number of companies to this day still treat design as a second-class citizen. A quick look at the displays at your local electronics store will reveal scores of PC laptops and desktops, made from whatever plastic molding could be purchased most cheaply from China, and littered with poorly placed ports, creaky hinges, ugly vents, and all kinds of misaligned joints and seams. It truly is an atrocious sight to behold, and one that instantly reveals the low esteem these companies place on the design of their products.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Dieter Rams had this to say about the current design situation in field of product design:

“I am troubled by the devaluing of the word ‘design’. I find myself now being somewhat embarrassed to be called a designer. In fact I prefer the German term, Gestalt-Ingenieur. Apple and Vitsoe are relatively lone voices treating the discipline of design seriously in all corners of their businesses. They understand that design is not simply an adjective to place in front of a product’s name to somehow artificially enhance its value. Ever fewer people appear to understand that design is a serious profession; and for our future welfare we need more companies to take that profession seriously.”

Apple stands nearly alone as a company that truly grasps the power and necessity of great design. There are very few other companies that show such obvious care and attention to detail in the design and construction of their products. When a company really cares about the design of their products, it shows. It becomes obvious in everything they do, and comes to define who they are as a company.

Things like aircraft-grade aluminum unibody cases, edge-to-edge glass displays, and trackpads that become buttons when pressed are all design elements that are vital features. Design isn’t merely how the product looks; it determines how the product works on the lowest level.

On the design situation at Apple, and at the companies Rams has worked at, Rams said the following:

“I have always regarded Apple products – and the kind words Jony Ive has said about me and my work – as a compliment. Without doubt there are few companies in the world that genuinely understand and practise the power of good design in their products and their businesses.

I have always observed that good design can normally only emerge if there is a strong relationship between an entrepreneur and the head of design. At Apple this situation exists – between Steve Jobs and Jony Ive. This was the case at Braun where I always reported to Erwin and Artur Braun or, after their departure, the chairman of the board.

I am always fascinated when I see the latest Apple products. Apple has managed to achieve what I never achieved: using the power of their products to persuade people to queue to buy them. For me, I had to queue to receive food at the end of World War II. That’s quite a change.”

Rams has said very little about Apple, or even the current state of product design in recent years. It’s great to hear him open up like this and discuss the current design climate, and how today’s companies compare to those of the early 1950s-1960s.

You can read the remainder of the Telegraph’s interview with Dieter Rams, as well as preorder a book about his design philosophy here.

Article and Image Via The Telegraph

Justin Lowery has been reading and writing about Macs and technology for nearly a decade. By day he is a web and graphic designer who creates powerful and beautiful solutions for companies and individuals worldwide. By night he writes passionately… Full Bio