Seminal model of brutalist architecture, London’s Barbican, welcomed an audience of 2,000 people for AKQA’s presentation of Rams, the new documentary by Gary Hustwit. An intimate portrait of the world’s most influential industrial designer, Dieter Rams, the exclusive post-film discussion hosted by Wallpaper* editor-in-chief Tony Chambers followed the sold-out premiere. The conversation featured director of Helvetica and Objectified, Gary Hustwit; author of Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible; Sophie Lovell; managing director of Vitsœ, Mark Adams; and CEO of AKQA, Ajaz Ahmed.
“We’ve never just wanted to make something beautiful,” Rams tells the standing-room-only crowd at Munich’s Technical University in the film. “We want to make things better. What we need is less, but better.”
Dieter Rams has for over fifty years, left an indelible mark on the field of product design and the world at large with his iconic work. The objects Dieter has designed have touched the lives of millions of people. His work has influenced the way most of today’s consumer products look and function. The computer or phone you’re reading this on looks the way it does because of Dieter Rams. Dieter’s influence also extends to his “Ten Principles of Good Design,” a list of edicts that champions simplicity, honesty, and restraint, and still applies to design theory and practice today.
In 2008, producer and director Gary Hustwit interviewed Dieter for his documentary Objectified, but was only able to share a small piece of his story in that film. Dieter, who is now 86, is a very private person; however, Gary has been granted unprecedented access to create the first feature-length documentary about his life and work. The documentary is simply titled Rams.
Rams includes in-depth conversations with Dieter, and dives into his philosophy, his process, and his inspirations. But one of the most interesting parts of Dieter’s story is that he now looks back on his career with some regret. “If I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer,” he’s said. “There are too many unnecessary products in this world.”
Dieter has long been an advocate for the ideas of environmental consciousness and long-lasting products. He’s dismayed by today’s unsustainable world of over-consumption, where “design” has been reduced to a meaningless marketing buzzword.
“I am of the opinion that all the digitisation that is happening right now diminishes our ability to experience things,” Dieter Rams says in the film. “There are pictures that disappear, one after the other, without leaving traces in our memory. This goes insanely fast. And maybe that’s why we can or want to consume so much… I see it as a major problem today that so many defective products can only be thrown away.”
Rams is a design documentary, but it’s also a rumination on consumerism, materialism, and sustainability. Dieter’s philosophy is about more than just design; it’s about a way to live. It’s about getting rid of distractions and visual clutter, and just living with what you need.
The film features original music by pioneering musician and producer Brian Eno. Alongside Wallpaper* magazine, AKQA is honoured to have presented the premiere of Rams at the Barbican.