The work of modernist designer Dieter Rams is the inspiration for many products today most notably Apple products. The modernists strove for “timelessness” in their designs so it comes as no surprise that Rams’s visuals hold up.
But for Rams and his contemporaries, timelessness was more than just a look. It was about durability. They believed in high-quality products that lasted a lifetime. Throughout his career, Rams lamented the wastefulness that he saw around him. From a talk in New York in 1976:
“I imagine our current situation will cause future generations to shudder at the thoughtlessness in the way in which we today fill our homes, our cities and our landscape with a chaos of assorted junk.”
Indeed. Rams’s values about wastefulness and sustainable design have only grown stronger. I like to imagine him leading a consumer electronics team today. Surely he wouldn’t stand for the disposability that is designed into today’s electronics. As a systems thinker who cares about the consequences of the choices that designers make, he’d find a timeless solution. Not only one that looks beautiful, but one that gets better with age.
For more of Rams’s thoughts on sustainable design, read this interview from 2015: If I Could Do It Again, I Would Not Want To Be A Designer