Systems Studio’s Less But Better exhibition showcases Dieter Rams’ legendary designs in all their glory
A new exhibition celebrating the work of iconic industrial designer, Dieter Rams, has launched at The Space – an events space located in the main building of the Japanese retailer Isetan in Shinjuku. With a focus on Rams’ designs for German product company Braun and British furniture brand Vitsœ, the exhibition, titled Less But Better, features a compelling identity conceived by London-based Systems Studio.
Systems Studio has long had a relationship with the work of Rams, so much so that the studio proceeded to establish Das Programm – an offshoot that presents research and documentation on the work of the design legend. With this new endeavour, however, the studio has transferred its interest into the physical sphere and presents a curatorial journey of Rams most iconic pieces from the 1960s.
Of how the idea for the exhibition first came about, Giorgio Del Buono, Partner and Design Director at Systems Studio, points towards the initial collaboration with Braun and Hiroshi Fujiwara’s studio, Fragment Design. Taking place alongside the exhibition at Isetan, the two companies decided to reinterpret some of Rams’ designs into a series of contemporary clocks. “Isetan approached us to mark the occasion with an exhibition.”
After accepting the invitation, Systems Studio wanted to avoid any confusion with the already recognisable typefaces found within both design companies – that being Akzidenz Grotesk and Helvetica for Braun and Univers for Vitsœ. “This was to avoid conflict and historical pastiche,” says Del Buono, noting how they opted for Helvetica Now, chosen as “the best solution that kept with the tradition whilst working at scale.”
The exhibition is divided into three rooms and harnesses the power of wayfinding, grid systems and visual cues in order to tell stories of the designer’s work. This can be seen in the modular display of titling graphics, posters and animated social media posts – decorated with signature Braun hues of olive greens, light greys and oranges. Split between familiar household spaces, the audience are invited to explore various products including well-known pieces such as Snow White’s Coffin and T1000 World Receiver radio, as well as those less unheard like the RZ-57 Vitsœ storage system. Further pieces from Rams include ephemera such as audio, photography and seating, to printed materials and packaging.
“Objects were lent to the exhibition from two quite expensive private collections in Japan,” says Del Buono of the process behind selecting the objects. “We wanted to focus on the period of the 1960s, arranging objects to suggest the living room and study environments, to show the cohesive character of Rams’ designs across a number of product categories.” Although restricted to one particular period of the 1960s, the designs selected reflect the breadth and momentous impact that Rams’ has had on the industry.
Like many events and plans, Less But Better has had to overcome a few COVID-19-related obstacles, especially in terms of travel and visitor admittance. Del Buono says how in normal conditions he, alongside his team, would be travelling to Japan experience the site set-up and to oversee the installation. “However,” he adds, “the larger part of the work was carried out in the summer at the height of the first wave in the UK, so travelling was out of the question.” Armed with a whole host of digital tools and video apps of sorts, this was never going to get in the way of a collaboration of this kind. “As it turned out, we worked really effectively with the Isetan team remotely.”
Less But Better is on show at Isetan Shinjuku until 11 January 2021.