The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
TP 1 radio/phono combination, 1959, by Dieter Rams for Braun
A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
MPZ 21 multipress citrus juicer, 1972, by Dieter Rams and Jürgen Greubel for Braun
The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
RT 20 tischsuper radio, 1961, by Dieter Rams for Braun
It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.
T 1000 world receiver, 1963, by Dieter Rams for Braun
Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
Cylindric T 2 lighter, 1968, by Dieter Rams for Braun
It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
L 450 flat loudspeaker,TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder and TS 45control unit, 1962-64, by Dieter Rams for Braun
It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
620 Chair Programme, 1962, by Dieter Rams for Vitsœ
Things which are different in order simply to be different are seldom better, but that which is made to be better is almost always different.
Dieter Rams, 1993
My goal is to omit everything superfluous so that the essential is shown to best possible advantage.
Dieter Rams, 1980
Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
ET 66 calculator, 1987, by Dietrich Lubs for Braun
Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
606 Universal Shelving System, 1960, by Dieter Rams for Vitsœ
Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.
Back to purity, back to simplicity.
Thirty-three visual communicators renew the 1964 call for a change of priorities.
First Things First Manifesto 2000
We, the undersigned, are graphic designers, art directors and visual communicators who have been raised in a world in which the techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us as the most lucrative, effective and desirable use of our talents. Many design teachers and mentors promote this belief; the market rewards it; a tide of books and publications reinforces it.
Encouraged in this direction, designers then apply their skill and imagination to sell dog biscuits, designer coffee, diamonds, detergents, hair gel, cigarettes, credit cards, sneakers, butt toners, light beer and heavy-duty recreational vehicles. Commercial work has always paid the bills, but many graphic designers have now let it become, in large measure, what graphic designers do. This, in turn, is how the world perceives design. The profession’s time and energy is used up manufacturing demand for things that are inessential at best.
Many of us have grown increasingly uncomfortable with this view of design. Designers who devote their efforts primarily to advertising, marketing and brand development are supporting, and implicitly endorsing, a mental environment so saturated with commercial messages that it is changing the very way citizen-consumers speak, think, feel, respond and interact. To some extent we are all helping draft a reductive and immeasurably harmful code of public discourse.
There are pursuits more worthy of our problem-solving skills. Unprecedented environmental, social and cultural crises demand our attention. Many cultural interventions, social marketing campaigns, books, magazines, exhibitions, educational tools, television programmes, films, charitable causes and other information design projects urgently require our expertise and help.
We propose a reversal of priorities in favour of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication – a mindshift
away from product marketing
and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning. The scope of debate is shrinking; it must expand. Consumerism is running uncontested; it must be challenged by other perspectives expressed, in part, through the visual languages and resources of design.
In 1964, 22 visual communicators signed the original call for our skills to be put to worthwhile use. With the explosive growth of global commercial culture, their message has only grown more urgent. Today, we renew their manifesto in expectation that no more decades will pass before it is taken to heart.
Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
Linda van Deursen
J. Abbott Miller
Jan van Toorn