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May 18, 2018

Happy Birthday to our design hero, Dieter Rams

Image of Dieter Rams

May 20th marks Dieter Rams’s 86th birthday, and it seemed as good a time as any to celebrate the man whose brilliant ideas have been pivotal to the creation of our company, Fulton & Roark.

If you’re not familiar, Rams is the designer and architect who coined the phrase “less, but better” and who led the company Braun to design some of the most timeless and beautiful products ever created from the 1960s through the 1990s. One of my most prized possessions is a Braun T2 desk lighter given to me by close friends. I keep it on my work desk and love it so much that I’ve been tempted to pick up smoking just to use it more. While I’m sure Rams might appreciate the sentiment, I doubt he would approve of me changing my behaviors to better make use of his design. That’s because Rams had very clearly defined rules about what made “good design.” According to Rams, the answer to the question “Is my design good?” was “Yes,” IF it met his Ten Rules of Good Design:


According to Rams, good design:

  1. is innovative –Technological progress means that there are nearly always opportunities for an improved design and creative thinking.
  2. makes a product useful– After all, above all else a product is made to be used.
  3. is aesthetic – Rams believes that the presence of good design has an effect on people and their well-being.
  4. makes a product understandable– Rams said, “At its best, a product is self-explanatory.”
  5. is unobtrusive– Rams sees a distinction between a functional product and art/decorations. Consequently, products should be neutral relative to the users’ attention.
  6. is honest – In other words, it doesn’t overpromise or inflate the value of the object.
  7. is long-lasting – Rather than being trendy, it should be timeless.
  8. is thorough down to the last detail– Rams saw the attention to detail as a show of respect to the end-user.
  9. is environmentally friendly– a product should minimize pollution through its entire lifecycle.
  10. is as little design as possible – a.k.a. “Less, but better.”

From the design of our shave cream tube to the layout of our website, we have used Rams’s principles as a framework to examine our ideas before putting them into action. As we grow, we strive to continue to make all our designs “less, but better.” We focus on the tiny details of a man’s life and try to use those facets to shape our finalized products.

For example, when settling on the size and shape of our solid cologne square, we considered the amount of space in an average-sized pants pocket and designed on a shape to minimize any visible bulge in the pockets. We considered the shapes and placement of the thumb, index and middle fingers when opening the square, and created subtle indentations in the metal for a comfortable grip as well as easy opening and closing. With each detail, we considered how best to meet these needs without creating unnecessary complexity. The most rewarding moments for us are not when a customer waxes poetic about our design, but rather when he intuitively uses it without a need to first study the object. Those are the moments when we feel we might just make Rams proud.

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