Book Review: Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

Less is more, more or less

I thought this was fascinating and comprehensive overview of Braun and Dieter Rams contribution to the success of the company though I think it has a quite a serious editorial flaw.

The publishers have been quite clever in accommodating the huge amount of text and graphic material in a book of just over eight hundred pages. The text, German on left-hand pages and English on the right, has been printed on very thin paper (known as bible stock in the trade) which has a certain amount of show-through. The excellent product shots (314 pages) have been printed on a good matt art with another paper used for the remaining photo essays. Incidentally the color work in the book is printed with an impressive 300 screen, most art books run to 175 to 250.

Eleven of the nineteen chapters are text (on the thin paper) and explore in as much detail as you could want about German and middle European design in the first decades of the last century and how it influenced Rams, particularly the Bauhaus and Ulm design laboratories. A fascinating sixty-five page chapter: 'Dieter Rams, Braun, Vitsoe and the shrinking world' explores the reasons for the companies success and Rams contribution with brilliant product design. Another chapter: 'Graphic design: Braun and Vitsoe' delves, in part, into the typeface used on the products, always in lower-case and originally Akzidenz-Grotesk but after the sixties switching to Helvetica.

Between the essays and possibly the main strength of the book are the photo product pages, basically electrical products for the home. Each item gets a spread of lovely close-up photos butted together and then a spread with a head on shot on the left and each right-hand page having relevant profile photos. Here, unfortunately, I think the book falls down (and why I've given it four stars) because these photos are just too small and made more noticeable because the rest of each page is blank. Matt black was a design element for many of the audio products and to see them basically as small silhouettes with the detail of the fascia, side and backs near invisible seems a nonsense. To have all these product shots this small is just a book designer's whimsy and doesn't do the reader any favors. There are other photos essays of Braun products (including fourteen pages of ones that didn't make it) brochures, packaging, Dieter Rams home.

'Less and more' is an impressive book (apart from the small product photos) and could well become the standard work on the company for design students and those who appreciate good product design and want to know about a man and company that created such high standards. There is another book about the company that might interest you: BRAUN--Fifty Years of Design and Innovation basically product shots with a very comprehensive listing of these in the back pages.

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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Braun product booklets.

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All 808 pages and three different types of paper.

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Title spread.

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Throughout the book German is on the left and English on the right and nicely the footnotes have been kept with the relevant text to avoid endlessly having to turn to back pages.

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It was a serious editorial flaw to make all the product profile shots (right) so small throughout the book, especially as they mostly have a whole page to themselves.

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The product review pages would have worked much better if the photos were a sensible size which would enable you to see the design elements, various controls and typography. I've enlarged the profiles to a more reasonable dimension, used up some of the empty white space but still kept to the book's grid.

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Each product has a spread of close-ups followed by, on the next spread, one product shot on the left-hand page and profiles with dimensions on the right-hand page.

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The book comes in a rather ordinary slip-case.

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The profiles on the right really are far too small throughout the product review pages.

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How the logo evolved.

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Braun packaging.

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Dieter at home.

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The Braun design team.

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Models and sketches and this includes mock-ups of products that didn't make it.

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Right: the product profiles are just too small.

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