On Today’s Show: Talking Product Design, With Dieter Rams, Jae Won Cho

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TODAY’S SHOW: “All You Need is Zip Ties”

Jae Won Cho moved around so much he created modular furniture that could be remade anywhere in the world — that sells zip ties. Meanwhile, Dieter Rams’ products remain universal. Today’s DnA features conversations talk with these two product designers. Plus, Dave Bullock and Edward Lifson take a look at a Modernist “icon” on Wilshire Boulevard, that has become a tech nerve center and an anti-icon: One Wilshire.


Before Jonathan Ive there was Dieter Rams, creating 100s of pristine and accessible products for German electronics and appliance company Braun A.G. and the 606 Universal Shelving System for Vitsoe (shown, below right, in the A. Quincy Jones-designed home of Vitsoe representative Rob Fissmer that can be visited, by appointment).

Now in his 80s, Rams remains a hero to many young product designers, such as Art Center student Andrew Kim, shown above, with Dieter Rams. Kim graduates from Art Center College of Design this year and told Pasadena Magazine that “every child needs a superhero to look up to, and he has been mine.” Kim was reportedly literally speechless when he saw Rams himself, at Art Center recently to receive an honorary doctorate.

Universal shelving in Fissmer houseOn this DnA (audio above), Rams, known for his ten principles of good design, talks about his work, his admiration for Apple, and what he thinks are essential to achieve beautiful and saleable design, for example:

— making the functionality so clear that users don’t need to follow an instruction manual.

— having a smart entreprenial client as a partner, like Erwin Braun or Steve Jobs.


Jae Won Cho is a young designer who happens to have also studied at Art Center, and is also interested in universality of design — for a very practical reason. He moved around so much he designed furniture that he could dismantle and take anywhere, without trashing it or losing screws.

1_J1_t_shelf_white_1_v3The result was the interchangeable T-shelf system, made of squares and triangles and held together by a near universal product: the zip tie.

Jaewon and Danielle at HelmsJae Won, who designs tables and chairs following similar principles, talks to Danielle Rago, reporting for DnA as part of our ongoing look at independent Los Angeles makers and designers (shown with Jae Won in photo, right, at KCRW’s Helms Bakery event.)

Rago situates Jae Won’s work in a tradition of modular design dating back to the Eames, but Cho says his greatest inspiration comes from his near neighbors — the designers, cooks and musicians that surround him, “living life!”


cicLAvia and Pacific Time Standard Presents: Modern Architecture in LA, by architecture critic and radio producer Edward Lifson.

He hears from self-described “big nerd” Dave Bullock, a photographer based in downtown LA who gets a kick out of visiting the anti-“iconic” One Wilshire building, at the start of Wilshire Boulevard in downtown and once the epitome of a Modernist commercial tower, now empty of humans and a meet-up only for servers.


You can hear more Wilshire Boulevard stories on past DnAs; meanwhile Edward Lifson is still looking for great stories about Iconic Wilshire Boulevard. He wants to hear from you if you have a tale that explains how modern Wilshire, built after 1940, from downtown to Fairfax, affects our lives? If you have a story, write to ELifson@gmail.com