Gary Hustwit isn’t done making films about design just yet. The documentary filmmaker behind Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized—the trilogy that helped popularize design in the U.S.—is back with a documentary about legendary German industrial designer Dieter Rams.
“I couldn’t believe there wasn’t already a great documentary about him,” Hustwit says. Rams, now 84, is widely revered for his sleek, functional products for manufacturers Braun and Vitsœ, as well as his “Ten Principles of Good Design.” His influence can be felt in everything from Apple products to user interface design. He’s also famously private—Hustwit’s Rams will be the first feature film on the designer.
“His influence can be felt in everything from Apple products to user interface design.”
Hustwit met Rams while interviewing him for Objectified, his 2009 documentary about the masters of product design, but didn’t begin to pursue the idea of a lengthier interview until early last year. He met with Mark Adams, owner of Vitsœ, who suggested Hustwit might have the best shot at a documentary on Rams since he was pleased with his interview in Objectified. After several conversations with Hustwit about the film, Rams ultimately agreed. “He still wants to pass his philosophy and ideas down to the next generation,” Hustwit says. “When I was talking to him about the film, that’s the only way that I could get him to do it.”
The objects Dieter has designed have touched the lives of millions of people––so many of us have had a Braun coffeemaker, shaver, stereo, calculator, speakers, or alarm clock. Or an Oral-B toothbrush. Or a Vitsoe 606 shelving system. Or any of the hundreds of other products Dieter has designed or overseen the design of.
“The objects Dieter has designed have touched the lives of millions of people”
Hustwit flew out to Rams’s home in Kronberg, Germany, just outside of Frankfurt, where he lives with his wife, Ingeborg, among a living archive of his famous designs from the ’60s and ’70s. After two weeks of filming, Hustwit is launching a Kickstarter for the film.
The funds raised will help him finish the film, which Hustwit says will include interviews with people close to Rams to put his work into context (he is not yet disclosing those names). The money will also be used to help preserve, digitize, and catalog the archives of the nearly 500 products Rams designed or oversaw the design of. Those archives are split between his home and the MAK museum in Frankfurt.
One of the most interesting parts of Dieter’s story is that he now looks back on his career with some regret. “If I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer,” he told me inObjectified. He has also long been an advocate for the ideas of environmental consciousness, sustainability, and long-lasting products. “There are too many unnecessary products in this world.” We hope to dig deeper into Dieter’s untold story––to try and understand a man of contradictions by design.
“I want to let Dieter tell his own story, but I’ll also be interviewing other people to give that story more context and plan to announce the list of the other interview subjects later this year,” says Hustwit.
“It’s almost the same thing I experienced going to Massimo Vignelli and Lella Vignelli’s house. Everything you see and everything that they are using is designed by them. The coffee cups and the chairs you’re sitting in and the clothes that Vignelli was wearing. It’s that modernist ideal of designing your world. Rams is in that same mindset,” Remarks Hustwit, upon reflection of Ram’s design philosophy.
“We are so excited to work with you to make this campaign as successful as possible. So, please join me. Celebrate a designer whose work continues to impact our lives. Preserve an important piece of design history for future generations.”