International Media Meeting, Edited by Theo van der Aa, Agora Foundation, Maastricht, 1982. Edition of 500 copies. Produced on the occasion of the program of discussions, intermedia presentations and panel discussions held at the State University of Limburg, Maastricht, 19 - 24th April, 1982. W/ Ulises Carrión, Raul Marroquin, Nan Hoover, Rod Summers, Christiaan Nastiaans, Tobe J. Carey, Jaime Davidovich, Herve Fischer, Dieter Froese, Henryk Gajewski, Alexandre Gherban, Madelon Hooykaas, Elsa Stansfield, John Hopkins, Paul Muller, Thor Elis Palsson


Dieter Rams is now in his 80s, but the work he did for Braun half a century ago is still influencing design today (even in UX). Anyway, I was struck by that quote because I think there are times when advertising is equally guilty of that “cardinal sin.” 

Case in point: the preferred decor of tens of millions of North Americans looks something like this.

But ad people don’t like this kind of furniture. In fact, they hate it. And so you will never see furniture like this in an ad, unless it’s put there for reasons of ironic humour. Instead, you’ll see ordinary families dropped into rooms they wouldn’t buy even if they could afford them.

We call these choices aspirational, but they’re actually closer to being condescending. After the shock of the 2016 U.S. election, there was some press suggesting that marketers were as out of touch with ordinary Americans as Hillary Clinton’s campaign appeared to be. That talk died down pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean the issue has gone away. Dieter Rams’ challenge should at the very least make us ask ourselves some questions.

What would happen if stopped imposing our über-hip taste on people who probably think we’re dicks? What would happen if we embraced their reality instead of being indifferent to it? How much more persuasive might our ideas then be?

When working on your goals …

1. Stop fantasising: Those with too rosy a picture of the future tend to put less effort into reaching their goals. Instead, it’s better to be open to some things going wrong. It will help you see the obstacles - and think through beating them.

2. Visualise process NOT outcome: If you can think through all the steps you will forge a better plan … and it will also help to reduce anxiety.

3. Beware of the “what-the-hell effect”: Too many just give up when they stumble or fall down. For example, think of all the dieters who binge at the first hurdle. It’s better to get up – and to see it as a journey.

4. Attack procrastination: It’s easy to procrastinate when things start getting tough. Make a start, keep your head down, and set yourself some deadlines. Once you start you’ll feel much better and the road won’t seem so hard.

5. Switch out of robot mode: A lot of behaviour is robotic and habitual. We copy other people or we do the same old things. Take stock … and change those patterns … if they don’t lead to your goals.

6. Know when enough is enough: Sometimes we need to know when there’s no point in going on. We’re flogging a dead horse and thing are never going to change. Perhaps it’s time to make that break, and to work on something else.

Haunting image of Dieter Dengler, a United States Navy Aviator, after he was rescued from a prison camp in Laos. In 1966, Dengler’s plane was shot down and he was captured by enemy troops. Along with six others, he was tortured and starved at a Pathet Lao camp for six months. In the image above, Dengler only weighed 98 lbs and was dangerously close to death.