Does the new Xbox owe a debt to Dieter Rams?

Er, yes! Commentators point out the similarities between Microsoft’s next-gen gaming console and Dieter's 20th century classics
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Microsoft's new Xbox Series S. Image courtesy of Xbox
Microsoft's new Xbox Series S. Image courtesy of Xbox

Our new book Dieter Rams: The Complete Works proves that, while technology moves on, good design is eternal. The book is filled with products less widely used today, such as slide projectors and desktop cigarette lighters. Nevertheless, each inclusion, created by the great German designer - and long-serving chief designer officer at Braun - exemplifies Rams’ key principles for good design, the best known of which is that good design is “is as little design as possible.”

Indeed, many of today’s designers have been inspired not only by his principles, but also his products. Consider the T 3 pocket radio from 1958. The transistor technology that allowed producers to shrink the size of a radio set is, of course, old news, yet many have returned to this simple, elegant design, when creating new consumer electronics.  

 

T 3, 1958, Pocket radio, Dieter Rams, HfG Ulm, Braun. 8.2 × 18.8 × 4 cm (3¼ × 7½ × 1½ in) 0.45 kg (1 lb), plastic, DM 120. photography Andreas Kugel / © copyright Dieter Rams Archive. As featured in Dieter Rams: The Complete Works
T 3, 1958, Pocket radio, Dieter Rams, HfG Ulm, Braun. 8.2 × 18.8 × 4 cm (3¼ × 7½ × 1½ in) 0.45 kg (1 lb), plastic, DM 120. photography Andreas Kugel / © copyright Dieter Rams Archive. As featured in Dieter Rams: The Complete Works

As the text in our new book explains, “The T 3 is often considered an early inspiration for the Apple iPod (2001–14); its designer, Jonathan Ive, has often spoken of his admiration for Rams.”

And now, Microsoft appear to be paying a similar compliment. Its new, low-cost gaming console, the Xbox Series S. In a tweet posted yesterday, the firm promises “next-gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever,” all for just $299; and, while the performance might be futuristic, the wonderfully sleek styling certainly seems to echo Rams’ timeless design, now over 60 years old.

While the similarity to the T 3 is noticeable, Domus, the Italian architecture and design magazine, draws another Rams comparison: the RT 20, a tabletop radio Rams made in 1961.  



RT 20, tabletop radio, 1961. photography Andreas Kugel / © copyright Dieter Rams Archive. As featured in Dieter Rams: The Complete Works
RT 20, tabletop radio, 1961. photography Andreas Kugel / © copyright Dieter Rams Archive. As featured in Dieter Rams: The Complete Works
 

“On the left are the slotted perforations of the radio’s loudspeaker, two semicircles that together form a whole,” says the text in our new book. “The thin, rectangular wooden box enclosure tapers slightly at the top so that the face tilts upwards towards the listener, giving elegance to the volume.

 

Microsoft's new Xbox Series S. Image courtesy of Xbox
Microsoft's new Xbox Series S. Image courtesy of Xbox

“While the tapering anticipates the form of the audio devices that followed in the late 1970s,” concludes our book. You can now extend that period of influence by quite a few decades. For more on this seminal designer’s important legacy, order a copy of Dieter Rams: The Complete Works here.


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