He’s referred to as one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century.
Over half a decade, his career reshaped modern design to the point of ubiquity and global reverence.
Yet, his demeanour remains as understated and consistent as the design work for which he’s become so well known.
Having spent 42 years as head of product design at consumer products company Braun, you may well be familiar with at least some of Dieter Rams design work.
Clocks, radios, calculators, furniture and kitchen appliances are amongst his legacy. An enduring mantra in his unwavering approach to design.
“As little design as possible.”
Most famously, perhaps, are his unwavering guidelines which guided his impactful career.
What began as a set of three rules in 1970, later expanded into what has become known as his “ten principles of good design.”
It’s these principles that have become so well known amongst the design community, adopted and referenced by some of today’s leading design authorities.
Head of design at Apple Inc, Jonathan Ive or Kenya Hara from Muji to name but a few.
During the redesign of our core collection of glasses, co-founder, Lucy Ross, was developing what was to be our updated range of round-eye frames.
However, following the success of the D model, it was a natural decision to expand upon what is an agreeably charming spectacle style.
The plan was made to introduce another, similarly styled glasses frame but this time with the inclusion of facets across the top of the brow.
Seen in the image below, you can see the early design stages.
Five months prior.
You ‘back’ them. Then you forget.
Months later, the thing you ‘backed’ arrives through your door as a reminder of your niche support, all those months ago.
But the Dieter Rams documentary project wasn’t one of them.
At least, not for me.
Amongst 5,110 die-hard fans, I had pledged my money and backed the Kickstarter project within hours of it’s opening.
It felt cult.
Aiga poster for the 'Rams' documentary screening in Portland, source
Filmed and produced by the esteemed film director Gary Hustwit, the Rams documentary was to be a preservation of Dieter’s design-archive, life and career.
Unsurprisingly, the project surpassed its financial target of $200,000. This sum funded the production of the first, and probably final, feature length film about my most favoured industrial designer.
Months later, I finally got to enjoy exclusive early access to the 'Rams' documentary film.
The Rams documentary was ready.
It was as every bit as good as I’d anticipated. Spanning the chronology of Dieter’s career, it covered his journey as a young product designer and his route to success Germany’s prominent consumer goods company, Braun.
As you’d expect, the film featured his most famous work, the Dieter Rams chair, the Dieter Rams tv, his radios, his Braun shaver and various kitchen appliances.
But as the story unfolded, documenting Dieter’s path, one thing remained constant for me.
His thick rimmed glasses.
Dieter Rams at the Jazzkeller club in Frankfurt 1955, Image source
Dieter Rams at his work desk at Braun, circa 1960, Image source
Dieter Rams at his work desk at Braun, circa 1960, Image source
Dieter Rams in his home studio in Germany, Image source
Vitsœ managing director, Mark Adams, speaking with Dieter Rams at the Leamington Spa headquarters, UK. Image source
To say these are Dieter Rams’ glasses would be entirely inaccurate.
Hence why we refer to them as a tribute spectacle frame.
Like the documentary, the resultant spectacle design is more an act of homage than a replica to what is a consistent attribute to Dieter’s appearance, and indeed his vision as a design icon.
Throughout his life, even as a young man, Dieter adorned many different styles and shapes of glasses frames. In the screeds of interviews and endless images of his work at Braun and later at Vitsœ, his choice of spectacles became very much integral to his utilitarian character.
Intentional or not, Dieter’s glasses are arguably similar to his design approach.
They needed to be straightforward, understated and most importantly, functional.
Most commonly, he opts for a traditional round-eye shape. Perceived as a traditional style, this shape had been worn for many years prior by the likes of Le Corbusier and Phillip Johnson and had already become synonymous as an architect’s glassesframe of choice.
Before making our tribute glasses frame, we acknowledged there is no single pair Dieter Rams spectacles. More so, a chronology of glasses from which we could observe and draw upon, showcased throughout Hustwit’s documentary.
Observing the simplicity and traditional aspects of his glasses, Dieter’s various frames have a quintessential aesthetic. One that immediately springs to mind when you visualise a pair of glasses.
And thanks to the D-model, we already had the basis for the shape we were looking for. But what truthfully inspired this tribute frame was the Dieter Rams London opening scene of Hustwit’s documentary.
Seen amongst the foot traffic on the busy London streets, the camera focused upon Dieter waiting at the traffic lights. Lenses lightly tinted, his frame was octagonal with facets across the upper section of the frame.
This set the basis for what became our tribute spectacle frame, the G-BLK.
At Banton Frameworks, we make our own glasses within our Glasgow-based workshop.
Until this tribute frame, we’d always self-generated our own eyewear designs for what is a concise range of handmade glasses styles.
But given the preservation of Dieter’s legacy and sense of finality within the documentary, mixed with our deep-felt admiration, we felt that this was a worthy source of external inspiration.
As seen in the images below, we’ve endeavoured to encapsulate the characteristics of the many Dieter Rams glasses frames he’s worn.
In it’s own right, the colour black is a statement.
Some would say it’s a neutral. Safe even.
But when it comes to your glasses, matte black acetate is actually quite bold, especially if you have pale skin like me.
So if you’re looking for a small punchy glasses style, the stark colour of this dark acetate imparts that sense of studiousness you’d expect from a unique glasses frame such as this.
After all, this frame is a Dieter Rams tribute.
For the most part, the G-BLK is a round glasses frame. But what sets it apart from our other models is the characterising facet that intersects it’s browline.
Due to its roundish nature, this style is best suited if you have a long, narrow face shape.
Mentioned above, Dieter developed a strong set of principles which he imparted and continues to lecture in his life-long approach to industrial design.
Needless to say, these commandments are as concise as you’d expect. They proudly overlook my desk, via the large Dieter Rams poster in our studio.