INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
New York Times NOVEMBER 27, 2018 - by Glenn Kelly
RAMS: THE MAN WHO MADE OUR MACHINES BEAUTIFUL
Boiled down to one thought, the ethos of the industrial designer Dieter Rams is this: "Less, but better." That phrase is repeated almost like a mantra in Rams, a documentary portrait of a man who is still active and vital at eighty-six.
Rams's work emphasizes clean lines not for their own sake but in the service of making products easy to understand and use. He was the chief designer at the German company Braun for decades (he retired from that job in 1995), and his designs for tape recorders, radios, coffee makers and other products have a simple beauty that remains striking and also timeless.
The movie tells his life story, punctuated with interviews and sometimes astringent asides from Rams. (His low opinion of the architect Frank Gehry is dropped so casually and drolly it's easy to miss.) Rams's influence on the products of Apple, a company he has never worked with, is discussed; less discussed is Apple's aggressiveness in pushing new iterations of its products, which indicates that the company is merely cherry-picking Rams's principles, which also stress sustainability and corporate responsibility.
Directed by Gary Hustwit, whose movies explore architecture and design (Helvetica, from 2007, about the popular typeface, is among the best known), this film adheres to Rams's aesthetics by being brisk, matter of fact, well lighted and composed of clean lines, metaphorically speaking. Brian Eno's score, which he recorded as a series of discrete compositions, adds to the movie's linear elegance.