PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Philadelphia Museum of Art
is presenting an exhibition surveying the career of one of the most influential industrial designers living today: Dieter Rams. Principled Design presents the prolific body of work he has producedfrom radios, clocks, and cameras to kitchen appliances and furnitureand examines the longevity and impact of his design philosophies. From his earliest years designing for German manufacturer Braun to his ongoing projects with Vits, 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. Principled Design is the most comprehensive museum survey of Ramss work to appear at an East Coast museum in three decades.
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 Ramss collaborations with Braun and his role in building the companys connection with the Ulm School of Design, which was founded in 1953 to continue the Bauhaus mission of uniting art and industry.
Ramss 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 Whites Coffin, was a radical modern statement in its moment. Ramss firm belief in intuitive user controls is highlighted through works like the T3 Pocket Transistor Radio, designed in 1958.
Among Ramss furniture designs for Vits is the modular 606 Universal Shelving System, which can adapt to a users changing needs over time, exemplifying his ideas about sustainability. In another section of the exhibition, visitors can try out Ramss modular seating, examine archival documents from Braun and Vits that illustrate how Ramss 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 Ramss 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 objects on view, are on loan from the Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt.
The exhibition also includes work by other designers and manufacturers, from Sony radios to Yamaha stereos, that underscore the powerful influence of the Braun approach over time. Jonathan Ives iPod, designed for Apple in 2001, illuminates how Ramss 1958 T3 Pocket Transistor Radio directly inspired one of the most iconic products of the digital age. Ive has credited Ramss work as an inspiration.
Colin Fanning, Project Assistant Curator, said: Dieter Rams advocated the principles of corporate responsibility through design before there was a widespread appreciation for the idea. His minimalist aesthetics were an outgrowth of his belief in a durable, rational design, attempting to make objects that could resist the habits of wastefulnessan important reminder today as we confront the mounting ecological impacts of our systems of production and consumption.