Design Museum: Your phrase “less but better” was initially read as an endorsement for purity in design. But it has been adopted as an environmental message about reduction and sustainability. What does the global community need to do to address that secondary message?
Dieter Rams: We live today with a lot of chaos, and designers should concentrate on helping to lighten the chaos, including the noise. Nobody notices any more that we’re living with a lot of noise. We don’t register the chaos; sometimes, yes, when we are in the middle of traffic or running late, we discover that everything is chaotic around us. It’s London, it’s Frankfurt it’s Berlin—it’s what Corbusier used to say about New York in the ’30s: It’s a “wonderful catastrophe”. Now all our cities around the world are wonderful catastrophes. We have to think much more about what we really need: how often we need things and how many we need. If we want to stay on this planet 50 years from now then we have to take that more seriously.
Design Museum: For many people the chaos in the environment is mirrored in their own personal spaces, in the jumble of belongings. Is clutter ever a positive thing?
Dieter Rams: In your personal surroundings there should be places where you have some disorder, so that you find the other places that are in order. Order with disorder—the contrast—can be sometimes fascinating. You have to have the difference; otherwise, you forget the feeling for order, for the necessary things.
Read Dieter Rams Ten Principles for Good Design