Every designer alive has heard of Dieter Rams’s 10 Principles of Design–the legendary
designer’s quick-reference rules for making products, developed in his early days at Braun.But never has the list been presented with such a strong visual thesis as it is in the documentary Rams, by Gary Hustwit. The documentary was released in select theaters in 2018 (read my story on it here) but Hustwit recently shared this intriguing new clip online. It’s a fascinating, four-minute thesis about how Rams articulated his design philosophy through consumer products.
In the documentary, the 10 Principles of Design sequence feels quite different than what comes before or after. While Hustwit films Rams himself with a locked-down tripod, creating crisp, impeccably balanced frames, the list breaks out of this stoicism, embracing multi-panel animations and a bit of whimsy.
“I wanted this section to feel different than the rest of the film to try to put a new spin on his list,” says Hustwit.
Rosie Garschina, who was creative director at branding and design firm Trollbäck+Company, led the production of this segment. Her goal was to figure out how to illustrate the commandments of Rams through the objects he designed. Over the course of several months, Garschina’s team storyboarded and concepted ideas, eventually pairing rules like “Good design makes a product understandable” with a butt coming in from off-screen and plopping down on top of Rams’s 740 stool.
The multiple video panels should feel dated, like a trick out of early-1980s broadcast TV segment–but in this case, it works. The panels solve a real problem: “We wanted to make sure, first of all, having the panels provide the opportunity to show more than one functionality at the same time,” as Garschina explains.
Gary Hustwit on set during the shooting of the sequence. [Image: courtesy Gary Hustwit]
Besides, if the list was shot like an Ikea catalog, with one full-frame product and a bit of text, it would just get dull. “To carry you through the experience, we wanted to have a cadence to it that would speed up and ramp down, so there was a consistent interest throughout the whole sequence,” says Garschina, “because it was quite long.”
In any case, the segment is a superb palette cleanser in the film, and a charming visualization of Rams’s ideas on its own–even if those ideas were never meant to be set in stone. If you didn’t catch Rams in the theater, you can buy the film on Vimeo now. It comes to iTunes and Amazon this March.