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Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams

Color coding done right. The minimalistic functionalism of Dieter Rams.

In the era of arising informational noise, bulk advertisement and mass-production, Dieter Rams managed to provide honest design that spoke for itself. Without overloading the user or craving for attention. The less, the better.

The second half of the 20th century was marked with a boom of inventions in production, materials and mass-communication. The importance of industrialisation began its inevitable decline and the role of services, information, and research grew exponentially year over year. Ironically, the brave new world was getting smaller and smaller. Urbanisation made life busy and crowded.

In a newborn and post-war free market economy, organizations were actively competing for resources with new customers being the most valuable of them all. In order to survive in this competitive environment, businesses were forced to stimulate higher demand for their goods, thus, the technological advancements encouraged the use and growth of advertising which flooded the world in just a decade.

As the voices of competing businesses were becoming louder, the era of growing informational noise was born. The ad banners were getting bigger, price tags - bolder and the colors - brighter.

“An impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.”

The deeply rooted economic and cultural foundations of advertisement are crucial to understanding the role of design in our world. As the main purpose of design was to establish a relationship between product and potential customers, make communication clear and the message immediately visible to the eye, it was evident that organizations needed to spend more on design-related research to maximise their adverts’s effectiveness and in turn sell more products.

The use of color is one of the central aspects of this process. Color, along with composition, shape and texture, is actively utilised by designers in order to communicate with users without the need for any words. These visual components give voice to the products by relying on our human instincts.

One man who was an expert in this field was Dieter Rams. An industrial design pioneer who’s most notable work was completed as an employee of Braun. Throughout his career, Rams achieved the absolute clarity of both function and expression in design.

His legacy is alive to this day and serves as an example to all aspiring designers as to what a functional product truly means. A very notable historical lesson from Rams was the way he expressed his philosophy through his famous principles of good design.

“Good design makes a product understandable It clarifies the product's structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.”

If not enough color is used, the message becomes too quiet, unheard and ultimately failing its mission. Overdo it, however, and the message becomes too cluttered, confusing and untrustworthy.

“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 emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.”

The use of too many colors can distract users and even decrease their performance. When not used carefully, colors will obscure the user’s experience and overload them with misleading visual cues. Confuse at best and annoy in most cases.

“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.”

Color should not be dictated by market-driven research, but rather used solely for enhancing the product and user experience. Contrary to what we see nowadays where color is often used solely with the idea of bringing more profits. Organizations spend millions to fit into trends and assumptions of a certain generation, completely disregarding whether their product actually fits that demographic all for reaching a certain number in their annual financial report.

“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.”

Design continuously evolves. The previous decade’s lessons teach us that the never-ending technological advancements constantly alter our daily routines. Each new habit then directly affects the requirements of what is considered a well thought-out and functional design. The development cycle always repeats and true perfection is never achieved, however, we can and we must learn from the past.

By minimizing the visual pollution, design can preserve and underline the aesthetics. Neutrality of the manmade environment leaves us some room for self-expression.

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