Long Live the King

FORTY YEARS...

FORTY YEARS IS A LONG TIME TO WORK AT ONE PLACE.

Over the course of forty years, Dieter Rams effectively changed all of our lives, without most people ever having a clue. Rams, a German-born industrial designer who held the title, or as folks in the design-world may say, the crown of Chief Design Officer at Braun – an internationally renowned, design-focused brand known for making small electronic appliances from radios to hairdryers. Although, it wasn’t until Rams laid his golden touch on the brand that they became a world-renowned design company. He brought a certain set of principles to his work that fostered customer-centric innovation leading to simply designed products that were both aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.

Back to the forty years – that’s still a really long time to work at once place. Rams created a near infinitum of products while at Braun that had far-reaching implications. You’ve definitely heard of and likely used products that were inspired by his designs. The products he designed have traveled the world and landed in living rooms, bathrooms and modern art museums, alike. Their inspiration has traveled further and very prominently landed in sunny California, at a not-so-little company named Apple - you may have heard of it. For years, the tech giant has been using Ram’s designs as inspiration in some subtle and some not-so-subtle ways. They loved the ET-44 calculator so much that they nearly copied it in its entirety when building their calculator for iOS 3. More famously, the folks at Apple took a stab at the MP-3 player market in 2001 with a first go at the iPod. The introduction of the click-wheel revolutionized people’s ability to easily scroll through their massive music libraries, and the design just may have been inspired by Rams design. Okay, it was definitely inspired by Ram’s design of T3 Pocket Radio. Just have a look.

 

Apple's iOS3 Calculator & the Braun ET-44 Calculator

Apple's iOS3 Calculator & the Braun ET-44 Calculator

 
Braun's T3 Pocket Radio & Apple's iPod

Braun's T3 Pocket Radio & Apple's iPod

 Ram’s design ethos (and his designs themselves) have directly influenced generations of designers and played part in innovations beyond his reach. His human-centered approach focused on building beautiful products that were straightforward and self-explanatory – their use was implicit within their appearance.

“You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people.”
— Dieter Rams

The main ideal that brought about Braun and Rams’s meteoric rise was their focus on their customers. They took great care in understanding who their customers and potential customers were before ever laying pen to paper in the design studio. When Rams left Braun in 1995, he left the world with a set of design principles that helped bring this long-lasting success about. Those design principles laid the foundation for my design career and are the core principles guiding our design and customer-focused eCommerce consultancy, Space Suit.

 The world of eCommerce is like, well, it’s like a box of chocolates. That delicious, ooey-gooey chocolate outside – yum! But, as one of the most profound(!) fictitious characters of our generation had said about those chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Your potential customers are not sure if youre the delicious chocolate theyre looking for – a store that they can trust that will deliver the product they want. They dont know that melting the chocolate coating from your store will reveal products that will far succeed their expectations. This is the problem Rams solved by creating a reputation around himself and Braun for having the most well-designed, functionally beautiful products in the world. Through this, he gained the trust of millions and Braun sold millions of products.

 That trust is not inherent within the world of eCommerce, nor the world of commerce as a whole. Trust must be built over time. Trust is bred from numerous different factors: familiarity, comfort, mutual understanding, and reliability to name a few. To gain the trust of your potential customers, you must first change the assumptions they have about you – hinting at what’s contained inside of your delicious piece of chocolate: a store that quality products and service that will succeed their expectations. Being able communicate in such a way to change your potential customer's assumptions is no small feat; first you must challenge your own assumptions you have about your customers.

 And that’s where Space Suit comes in. Your store serves as a bridge between your potential customers needs and wants and your product. Marrying those two in such a way that is clearly communicated, unobtrusive and contextually relevant is what we do. Well work with you to help shed the chocolate coating, the anonymity that causes anxiety and distrust from your potential customers, from your store. Using Rams design principles as a guide, well remove all barriers that distract and block your customers and potential customers from doing what theyre at your store to do – buy your product. We communicate with your customers to gain an understanding of how they use your site, how they talk about your products. Well use that information to shift the point of view of your websites communication efforts, its design and messaging, to reflect your customers needs and wants, allowing you and your sites communication methods to evolve as your audience evolves. Any points of contention or anxiety that your customer may have held as assumptions about your brand will quickly melt away.

Just as clear communication and a high level of trust are necessary for any successful business-to-business operation – the same level of communication and trust is necessary of you and your customers. Whatever assumptions you may have help about your customers will be validated or invalidated through opening a more clear communication channel with them, allowing you to bridge the gap between your current perceptions of how your audience views your business, products and site to how they actually view your business, products and site, allowing you to adjust accordingly to fit your customers needs.

“Question everything generally thought to be obvious.”
— Dieter Rams

Just as with your customers, we also implement the same practices with our clients. We want to learn from you and understand your needs and wants as your business evolves through the years. Working to question the status quo and our ongoing assumptions of customer and client relationships helps to push these relationships further and in a more positive direction, improving our clients brands while in tandem improving ours. Its a mutually beneficial relationship that allows us to help you and your business progress to the next level and in well turn grow alongside with you.

Following the guiding principles of Dieter Rams allows us to help you more effectively communicate with your customers through your sites design and messaging, providing for long-lasting success. And without further ado, forty years of success compressed into ten principles:

 

Dieter Rams 10 Principles for Good Design

Good Design Is Innovative

The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Good Design Makes a Product Useful

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good Design Is Aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good Design Makes A Product Understandable

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Good Design Is Unobtrusive

Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

Good Design Is Honest

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept

Good Design Is Long-lasting

It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible

Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Thanks for reading!

Scott Pandel // Founder of Space Suit Consulting