Over at Domus, my dear pal John Alderman reports on "Less and More: the Design Ethos of Dieter Rams," a retrospective exhibition about the German designer that's currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Rams is best known for the gorgeous electronic products he designed for Braun from 1961 to 1995. He defined his approach as "Weniger, aber besser," roughly "Less, but better." From Domus:
Considering Rams' innovative use of systems does something to resolve a point of criticism about the way his work is championed by designers in high tech fields that seem unable to build products to last. Opposite of the notion of buying furniture for a lifetime, investing in pricy materials for objects that Moore's law will render obsolete in a few years seems wasteful. In this environment, what can be designed to last are interfaces themselves, or more importantly the general interface vocabulary, so that the mental investment in how a system works is not in vain, even if its physical pieces are discarded regularly. Mental effort here is the better investment. The familiarity stays, and so little thought is required to jump in and work, play, or communicate that we experience that system as simply how the world works: "Don't Make Me Think," as the title of a popular book on Web design puts it. Across his body of work, Rams paid attention to developing interfaces that would instantly feel comfortable, using color sparingly, but always in the same way from piece to piece.