The ET 66 calculator by Dieter Rams showed me how form and function could combine
Early in my career as a journalist, the Sunday Times sent me to interview Dieter Rams, a German designer who at that time was working for Braun, a German electronics company. “It means Brown and it’s pronounced Brown!” he said, but everything in his studio was either black or white, except for the orange pack of cigarettes he held in his hand. Rams has the moral certainty of the true believer. Good design for him has nothing to do with persuading us to buy things that we don’t really need, it’s about making the world a better place. The matt black ET 66 calculator, designed with his collaborator Dietrich Lubs, had glossy buttons like Smarties and came in a black protective wallet, like a cigar case. Such was its elegant simplicity that when Jony Ive, Apple’s chief designer, was working on the calculator interface for the first iPhone, he made it look like Rams’s.