dieter rams documentary sheds unprecedented light on the private product design legend

dieter rams documentary sheds unprecedented light on the private product design legend

american filmmaker gary hustwit — known for his design trilogy ‘helvetica’, ‘urbanized’ and ‘objectified’ — has finally revealed ‘rams’, the full-feature documentary on legendary german designer dieter rams the world has been waiting for. following years of on-site research, personal interviews, conversations and a kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for the production, the long-awaited premiere offers unprecedented insight into the otherwise private rams’ life and work.


following its screening during the architecture and design film festival in new york, the milan design film festival presents the documentary’s european premiere on october 24, 2018, at the triennale teatro dell’arte.

dieter rams documentary
gary hustwit with dieter rams and german designer erik spiekermann



for more than half a century, dieter rams has paved a permanent path in the field of product design. his iconic work at braun and vitsoe has found its way into the homes of millions of people — the braun coffeemaker, shaver, stereo, calculator, speakers, or alarm clock; an oral-b toothbrush; a vitsoe 606 shelving system. across the hundreds of products dieter has designed or overseen the conception of, rams has applied his ‘ten principles of good design’ — a list of design commandments that support simplicity, honesty, and restraint. ‘in japanese they say: wabi sabi’, rams told designboom at an interview at his studio and home in 2000. ‘together these two concepts mean ‘tranquility, simplicity, balance’, but also ‘liveliness’. this is a point of reference for me.’

dieter rams documentary
rams at the vitra design museum in weil am rhein, germany



‘rams’ — the film — profiles both the professional and personal principles that have shaped the designer’s life. the 75-minute long feature includes in-depth conversations between hustwit and rams that dive deep into his philosophy, process, and inspirations. ‘you cannot understand good design, if you do not understand people,’ he comments in the film, an idea that underscores a humanistic sensibility. a long-time advocate for environmental consciousness that supports long-lasting products, rams finds himself dismayed by today’s unsustainable world of over-consumption. ‘if I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer,’ he tells hustwit, ‘there are too many unnecessary products in this world.’

dieter rams documentary
rams surveys the extensive archive of chairs at the vitra design museum



the film furthermore expands upon rams’ feeling of the degradation of the word ‘design’, reduced to a meaningless marketing buzzword. rams was already conscious of this sentiment we first spoke with him 18 years ago, and spoke about design as an autonomous cultural expression and his own education in the field. ‘the term ‘design’ is certainly used too much — even barbers call themselves ‘designers!’, he told us. ‘but if we mean the latin word ‘designare’ or the english term ‘design’, or in england where engineers call themselves ‘designers’… then I think that it is a culture, underestimated, but autonomous. in italy, the majority of designers are architects like me. in my day, there was no specific training. I recall we had a class called ‘space and tools’…

dieter rams documentary
rams tinkering with products at his home in kronberg



pictured with original music by pioneering musician and producer brian eno, hustwit’s highly-anticipated documentary is more than a portrait of rams, but a commentary on consumerism, materialism, and sustainability. ‘it is significant, how humanity has changed,’ the designer says says in the film, ‘the time of thoughtless design for thoughtless consumption is over.’ rams’ philosophy has always been about more than design only — it’s about a way of life, ridding yourself of visual clutter, and living simply, with just what you need.

dieter rams documentary
a few of the iconic products the designer has been responsible for throughout his 50-year career 

dieter rams documentary
the MPZ 22 citrus press from 1972, one of braun’s ‘design milestones’

dieter rams documentary
‘the possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted’ is one of rams’ ten principles for good design

dieter rams documentary
the designer in the backyard of his home

dieter rams documentary
rams and his porsche 993

gary hustwit rams
the european premiere of ‘rams’ is on october 24, 2018, at the triennale teatro dell’arte in milan

  • Totally agree and look forward to seeing this documentary. I also agree with Jane Gleeson-White, author of the 2011 book titled “Double Entry:” unless our 700 year old accounting system changes, profit will not be properly accounted for because costs blindly avoid listing resources assumed in the past to be infinite.

    Dan Heck says:

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