The need for sustainable design and why we are adopting a ‘less is more’ ethos.

“Things can, and must last longer.”

Dieter Rams

Industrial designer, Dieter Rams has established himself as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century. With a name closely associated with Braun for which he had been working for over 40 years, Rams has defined a product language so clearly based on what it can and should do. We explore the fundamental understanding of this design ethos and how we can work with this approach for a more sustainable future in design.

Seen by many as the biggest influence on the pared-back aesthetic of Apple’s best-selling products. Dieter Rams comments today still reiterate his values promoted in the late 1970s, voicing that long-term usefulness of an object is fundamentally linked to how it looks. Rams believes we should consider very carefully whether we constantly need new objects, with the ‘less, but better approach’. Rams’ voices how he had tended to steer well clear from the discussion of beauty, and argued if the design is reduced, clear and user-orientated as possible, the product will withstand the test of time and be bearable for longer.

“Beauty, not just appearance, that is both exemplary and instructive, certainly intensifies and prolongs the relationship with the user and therefore also makes sense ecologically.”

We as designers must ensure we are committed to protecting and bettering the natural environment through sustainable design, by creating efficient and effective spatial layouts using lower environmental impact materials wherever possible. We equally should strive to achieve this without sacrificing aesthetics. Developing schemes with the planet in mind, while also focusing on harmonious proportions, beautiful details and practical finishes combined is no mean feat.

At JS+P, we have adopted a ‘less is more’ ethos, which is now engrained in our studio culture and practice. As a team we are exercising this within every aspect of a project’s development process, from initial spatial strategies to end completion. The Tannery student living based in Leicester shows an intensity of function and purpose for each setting, with emphasis upon using less material used more thoughtfully throughout. The use of muted tones and paired back interior architecture will increase the longevity of the scheme which has been so meticulously analysed spatially to ensure spaces are purposeful with maximised function, as a result enabling residents to reap the benefits for years to come.

Rams believes the future of design is creating products that are more sustainable and less problematic for the environment. Stated in an interview conducted in 2015, Rams is confident we should be moving away from the ‘throwaway habit’ and that ‘things can, and must last longer’. Rams interest in sustainability goes so far that he says he would choose to not be a product designer if he could reverse time, and has suggested working in a role to help improve the environment. As a design practice striving to design with sustainability at the forefront of our processes, we echo Rams words of “I believe in the future; it will be less important to have many things and more important to exercise care about where and how we live”.