Dieter Rams: Principled Design, an exhibition surveying the career of one of the most influential industrial designers living today, will be on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art from November 18 through April 14, 2019. The exhibition will feature the prolific body of work Rams has produced - from radios, clocks, and cameras to kitchen appliances and furniture - and will examine the longevity and impact of his design philosophies.
From his earliest years designing for German manufacturer Braun to his ongoing projects with Vitsoe, the furniture company he co-founded in 1959, the exhibition celebrates his distinctive approach to integrating form, material, and color to create designs that are both functional and beautiful.
Known for his "less is better" approach, Rams redefined the criteria for successful mass-produced design in his "Ten Principles of Good Design." These tenets, which espouse concepts such as simplicity and sustainability, appear as overarching guidelines throughout the exhibition, which begins with a section that situates Rams in the milieu of postwar West Germany. Individual works document the origins of Rams's collaborations with Braun and his role in building the company's connection with the Ulm School of Design, which was founded in 1953 to continue the Bauhaus mission of uniting art and industry.
Rams's designs for stereo equipment and radios comprise the largest portion of the exhibition. His iconic SK 4 Radio-Phonograph from 1956 illustrates his success in designing devices that link internal technology with outer form. The acrylic cover for the turntable, which earned the nickname, "Snow White's Coffin," was a radical modern statement in its moment. Rams's firm belief in intuitive user controls is highlighted through works like the T3 Pocket Transistor Radio, designed in 1958.
Among Rams's furniture designs for Vitsoe is the modular 606 Universal Shelving System, which can adapt to a user's changing needs over time, exemplifying his ideas about sustainability. In another section of the exhibition, visitors can try out Rams's modular seating, examine archival documents from Braun and Vitsœ that illustrate how Rams's design approach guided the development of their corporate identities, and browse a selection of publications on his work and the broader history of industrial design. Additionally, examples of Rams's sketches, mock-ups, and working models illustrate the three-dimensional thinking required in the design process. These archival works, along with the majority of the
Photo: Courtesy of Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, by Sebastian Struch