Dieter Rams is a famous industrial designer who is revered world over as someone with unparalleled astuteness in design and an equally relevant wisdom to go with it. The computer and the phone that we use look the way they do because of Dieter Rams. Therefore, surprising as it sounds, he is vehemently against consumerism that once was generational and now, is practically, the way of our lives. In his 1995 book,”Less but Better”, Rams points that a good design is one that concentrates on essential aspects only, unburdened with non-essentials. This he calls is – “Back to Purity; Back to Simplicity”.
Principles of Dieter Rams are as applicable in today’s world as they may have been decades ago. Especially, now when the modern world is facing an unprecedented crisis, it makes one wonder if these principles were actually custom-made for times like these when less has become better, and simplicity is truly helping us flatten the curve! So, how do these principle of industrial engineering apply to our everyday lives and systems?
Take a snapshot of a day in your current life. Like most of us do, you must have a schedule that is driven by external factors, such as a job, study, balancing work and home, personal fitness goals, relationship goals etc. There is a system that drives you and you are set in your ways, varying marginally from weekday ‘ME’ to another weekend ‘ME’. If you ponder on how this system of yours came into design, the answer may lie in three core elements of human behaviour – investment, social influence and justification. Let’s apply Ram’s principles to these unified behavioural approach that defines us, to see if they fit.
Having small touches of color makes a thing more colorful than having the whole thing covered in color
Overtime, we have structured our lives in a way to influence other people and their behaviour which we justify as an important resource. And this need for social influence is strong in human beings due to our conditioning towards social factors of competition and cooperation.A good design is unobtrusive, innovative, and involves as little design as possible. In our lives today, smeared with consumerism and laced with unlimited need for (new) technology, innovation has taken a very different form and function. It is less for an improved use, and more for social influence. Either way, the core element of design has become overtly crowded by other psychological needs that are beyond the parameters of use and aesthetics.
For the vast scale of economic, social, political and technological advancements that the modern world is continually experiencing, simplicity is often misunderstood for frugality or even worse, scarcity. This simplicity in the design of our cognitive structures (in our minds), and in our way of living would strip them of the non-essentials – abstract and material, both – leading towards a more fulfilling and peaceful passage.
Less is not a constraint but it allows more space for our real lives
‘Less’ is probably one of the most misjudged and misrepresented word, which in its true meaning is the heart of a good design. Any system is structured to help the process, the process being the true subject. In our lives today, we are surrounded by common distractions which we often mistake for our valuable attention. This service of attention often leads to attraction that then ignites the greed to possess. The key to evolving into a simpler and more meaningful life is to break the pattern of such mindless social influence. And the only way to break a chain pattern is to isolate a link.
So, what (non-essential) patterns are you breaking in these times of isolation?