Alain de Botton on Dieter Rams and Good Design

Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams

A while back, I wrote a post about Dieter Rams, the German industrial designer who is recognized as one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century. Rams worked for 40 years at the German consumer products company, Braun. Today, he works at Vitsœ, a British furniture company.

In the early 1980’s, as he became increasingly aware of his influence in the world, Rams began asking himself a fundamental question: “Is my design good design?”

In my previous post, I looked at the ten principles that Rams tries to follow in order to be able to answer that question in the affirmative. These principles are frequently referred to by those in the industry as the “Ten Commandments of Good Design”.

I wrote that although Rams developed these principles in the context of his work as a designer of consumer products, we should reflect on them when it comes to designing our presentations.

I want to revisit Rams in today’s post because I recently came across a good video made by Alain de Botton as part of his School of Life project. I encourage you to check them out; they are all available on YouTube and cover a variety of subjects that are relevant to our lives. Here is the one on Dieter Rams:

Below are my key takeaways from the video. Think about them the next time you are designing a presentation.

1. Poorly designed things slow us down and sadden us. They are a sign of miscommunication and a lack of empathy.

2. There is value in simplicity. You have to be confident to dare to be simple because being simple can make you vulnerable. But simplicity is an achievement. It follows from a hard-won clarity about what matters.

3. There is value in modesty. As the Roman poet Horace said, “The art lies in concealing the art.” Don’t try to attract attention for no reason.

4. An object should be easy to live with. It should be obvious and create a welcoming experience for another person (customer or audience).

5. When designing anything, remember what it is like to feel lost, abandoned and frustrated. We can easily get angry and muddled and ashamedly confused by things that we feel any normal adult should be able to understand. People want things to be easy to understand and everyone is more confused that they admit. It is the job of the designer to remember that we are all childlike and bit lost.

6. Good business should be elegant, long-lasting and dignified.

As Alain de Botton notes, Dieter Rams’ mindset is currently very unusual. I share his hope that it will become mainstream and widespread. Especially when it comes to presentations.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
This entry was posted in Design, Slide Presentation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Alain de Botton on Dieter Rams and Good Design

  1. Pingback: The Holy Grail of Good Design | Manner of Speaking

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.