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Monstrously timeless: What makes good design. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

The Eames Plastic Side Chair by Vitra, the AJ table lamp by Louis Poulsen, the M series by Leica or the 620 chair range by Vitsœ: all timeless design icons. But what distinguishes them? And why are they so important in today's fast-paced world?

Text: Marko Knab Photo: Presse 11.10.2019 2 min

The ultimate design object: For some the Porsche 911, for others the chairs by Verner Panton, again for others the Leica M10 is the preferred choice for this title. A choice between these icons of design history? Difficult. What they all have in common, however, is that they have clear lines, pursue a unique concept and focus on functionality. In other words: They are "timeless", have not changed since their debut in the concept, or have only changed in nuances. But what distinguishes such designs? And why are some of them still successful fifty years after their appearance? One possible answer is offered by the late 1970s and Dieter Rams' ten theses.

© Leica

At the time, the long-time designer and architect of the electrical appliance company Braun formulated simple and concise design requirements. And they still apply today. In essence, Rams says: "Less design is more, because it concentrates on the essentials instead of burdening the products with unnecessary things. Back to the pure, to the simple! In addition to the optical and functional aspects, the products designed in this way are also valuable in another respect. Those who do not submit to fashion and thus not to time itself are perceived as timelessly stylish. With respect to accelerated digitalization, it is becoming more and more valuable today.

© Braun

In the extreme northwest of Switzerland, Rams's theses are lived in an exemplary manner: at the furniture manufacturer Vitra. However, timeless does not mean that design will not adapt to the future. Raphael Gielgen makes sure of this. He is a trend scout at Vitra and in this capacity travels around the world every year for around 200 days, reading hundreds of articles. With the aim that his employer is always up to date and does not miss any important impulses. At the same time, the Swiss also sell the "Eames Plastic Side Chair" designed almost seventy years ago. A contradiction?

By no means, Gielgen has come to the conclusion that good and timeless design is more important than ever. Whether his own products from Vitra, Ram's 620 chair range, Louis Poulsen's AJ table lamp or minimalist Leica: "In these fast-moving times, people are looking for things they can hold on to. That's why good design is timeless."

© Vitra

In the constantly changing digital world that Gielgen calls the "backdrop", it is becoming increasingly important to find a balance between reality and fiction. That's why, from his point of view, physical things with striking and familiar forms are becoming more important again: Not in the form of a mechanical renaissance in everyday life, but at least as anchor points within daily processes.

"We can build emotional relationships with these products, perhaps because they at best they have something of a soul. Porsche sports cars are the best example of this," explains Gielgen. In addition to emotion, the spatial location is also a factor for the expert: Feeling in good hands.

What do we learn from this? Clear forms give life clear structures.