One of Dieter Rams’ infamous 'ten commandments' of good design was called into question this week as Phaidon’s New York store and industrial design publication Core77 hosted a panel discussion on the legendary designer’s influence. Of central debate throughout the discussion was the subject of longevity - does good design have to be durable?
Panelist Gary Hustwit, director of the films Objectified and Helvetica began by discussing the Vitsoe 606 Universal Shelving System, a product he purchased precisely because he knew he’d own it all his life.
Using the iPhone (which generally has a product cycle of 18 months) as an example, panelist Michael DiTullo, a creative director who has worked with Honda, Converse and Burton, pointed out that the iPhone materials are "talismanic" and for a product replaced with such frequency, should not really be made of materials that confer longevity.
He also claimed that a major difficulty in making design long lasting is the shift away from a "design sensibility driving the company," as with Rams and Braun, to market-driven business models leading companies. He noted the shift that occurred within the American car industry when the research and development departments stopped being the acting force behind automobile design in favour of MBA grads. "Maybe it’s time to put companies back into the hands of people who make things," he said.
Panelist Zoe Coombes, co-founder of furniture, art and design studio CMMNWLTH later argued that longevity in design also brings with it aesthetic constraints, noting that while Rams’ design style was meant to have an "intense neutrality," that anti-aesthetic notion was in itself a strong statement.
Hustwit replied that Rams’ aesthetic was timeless, commenting, "It looked like the future then and now it looks like the future."
While the panel addressed the difficulties of design longevity, the murmurs of envious awe that rippled through the crowd when Hustwit mentioned his 606 Shelving System hinted that the effect of certain designs is in fact, long lasting.
And lest we forget Dieter Rams’ ten commandments:
1 .Good Design is innovative
2. Good Design makes a product useful
3. Good Design is aesthetic
4. Good Design helps a product be understood
5. Good Design is unobtrusive
6. Good Design is honest
7. Good Design is durable
8. Good Design is thorough to the last detail
9. Good Design is concerned with environment
10. Good Design is as little design as possible
Follow the link to see the winning drawing & gallery of finalists from Core77 and Phaidon's Good Design is Long Lasting competition