Jungfrau Marathon 2012

Wide awake.

I look at my watch: 1:30AM.  I groan, and try to go back to sleep, but my heart starts racing as soon as i remember what i’m about to do.  I finally drift into a state that is neither sleep nor awake, only to repeat the cycle less than an hour later.

Such is the life of a jet lagged long distance runner the night before a race.

On this particular race morning I was the a small Swiss village of Wilderswil awaiting the start of the Jungfrau marathon, which is said to be the most beautiful marathon in the world. While that claim sounds entirely too subjective, I had run this race once before back in 2007 and found myself in complete agreement. Consider the following:

Roaring rivers, 800-ft waterfalls, quaint villages, clinking cowbells, glaciers and mountains are all discovered along the course. And not just any mountains. The race finishes on the steps of three of the most legendary peaks in all of Europe: the Eiger, the Monch, and the Jungfrau. It’s a mountain lovers dream.

Course map

The gun went off at 9am and a colorful stream of runners, 6000+ in total, burst across the starting line (it is now the largest marathon in Switzerland, road or trail). Crowds lined up along the starting chute pounded the barriers, rang cowbells, and cheered, as firecrackers exploded nearby. Ah, racing in Europe, there’s nothing like it.

Unfortunately, there were no such fireworks happening in my legs. In the proceeding days I had felt a tightness settle in to my calves that made them tender even to the touch. Perhaps i did one too many workouts the week before, and the air travel probably didn’t help. Whatever it was I didn’t have the spring in my step that you always hope for on race day. But i didn’t want that to be an excuse not to run my best, so I tried to remain patient, hopeful that the legs would eventually come around and loosen up.

I was here to participate in the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge (or Championship, depending on who you ask) with a USA team that included 5 guys and 5 women. We would compete individually for overall placement in the race but with the added context that our three fastest runners would score for team honors. The unique profile of the race (and significant prize money — $56,000 in total) draws an impressive pool of backgrounds and talent. 70 countries in total were represented, including usual suspects such as Switzerland, Austria, Germany, but also speed powerhouses like Kenya and Ethiopia. Reading through the bios of these athletes, it was not uncommon to see marathon PRs in the 2:14-2:20 range, with mountain experience to boot. Mountain racing in Europe is the real deal.

Mens 40+ runners and women raced the day before. Here, going through 10km. (Galen Burrell photo)

After running through the first 10k in 36min (5:47 pace) a lead group of ~20 had already gone off the front and I had no choice but to settle in with an equally sized chase group to continue running what felt to be a sensible pace. Although my breathing felt relaxed, my legs were feeling flat, and it seemed like my calves might cramp up at any time. This is just the warmup, I kept saying to myself.

From 10km to 21km the course is gently uphill (2% grade avg.), and I could see our pace slowing on my Garmin. At that point I went off the front of our chase group to push the pace a bit, because I knew I wanted to go through the first half in 1h:16m or faster.

My goal for this race was to improve upon the time I ran in 2007 (3:11:05), when I finished 5th. To do that, I knew I had to train smarter and more effectively to make up for whatever natural speed I’ve lost (and work/life responsibilities gained) since then. So I studied the course in great detail over the summer and identified each unique segment of the race, noting it’s length and grade (steepness).*

I used this information to match similar sections of trails and roads near my house (with a little help from Strava!) and trained assiduously on them with hill repeats and tempo runs to get my body dialed to those gradients. I love this kind of focused training and i saw considerable improvement along the way.

Going through Lauterbrunnen at the halfway point I was elated by the hundreds of spectators lining the streets cheering and screaming. High fives were exchanged as I floated through the crowd. But it was only temporary relief from the sinking feeling of seeing my time (1h:19m:33s) nearly 4 minutes slower than in 2007. I was way off my targeted pace.  I needed a hill.

USA’s Melody Fairchild at km 26 from the day before. (Galen Burrell)

The start of the climb finally arrived just before km 26 and i was in 25th place, with the chase group not far behind but nobody in sight ahead of me. I told myself “the real race starts now”.

The first few km of the climb are outrageously steep), and although I felt my confidence returning in more familiar terrain, I was gaining little ground on the runners behind me. For the first 8km of the climb it felt like i was running by brute force and will, with little energy to enjoy the incredible event I was participating in. The realization that I wasn’t enjoying myself frustrated me even more than my pace.

A view of Lauterbrunnen valley from the course near Wengen. (Galen Burrell)

At around 33km, the first glimmers of hope started to appear. I could see runners ahead of me for the first time since the first 10km of the race. Despite how poorly I was feeling, I was finally starting to reel people in. After passing the first few stragglers, i felt some adrenalin releasing, and the tension and tightness in my legs start to ease up. I pounded my 4th gel to try and supercharge the sudden wellspring of energy.  Boom!  It worked – before I knew it, I was dancing up the mountain with lightness and joy that I hadn’t felt all day, and was passing people like they were standing still. I was finally running the race I had imagined all along, and it felt spectacular.

Adam Campbell running near the top of the climb back in 2007. (Galen Burrell photo)

I ended up passing 10 people in the last 10km and ran the fastest split among all competitors on the steepest and most spectacular final climb before the finish. Near the top of the climb, I passed a dazed and stumbling Ethiopian, clearly out of his element. Knowing that his 10k PR is likely 5 minutes faster than my own, i sprinted down the last kilometer to the finish with reckless (and fearful) abandon and crossed the line in 3:10:58 for 11th place.

In the end, I felt elated by my strong finish, relieved to run faster (incredibly, by less than 10 seconds!) than in 2007 when I was 5 years younger, and yet puzzled by how poorly I felt early on. Under-trained for the flat stuff maybe? Over-trained in general (i won the Mt Tam Hill Climb six day prior, maybe i wasn’t recovered)? Or maybe I’m turning into an ultra runner and need 30km just to warm up. These are things to ponder as I take a little break from training this month…

As for the team competition: my time, combined with Sage Canaday’s 5th place time and Zac Freudenburg’s 32nd place time, earned Team USA the silver medal, with the local Swiss team taking gold, and Germany staking bronze. Josh Ferenc and Jason Bryant put in gutsy performances for the US as well, finishing 43rd and 63rd respectively, despite some hardships in the second half.
The women put in a great performance the day before, taking home the gold in the team comp.

The gang of four, without Zac. (Melody Fairchild photo)

*The breakdown of the course looks alittle something like this:
10km (flat) + 11km (2% grade) + 5km (flat) + 4km@18% + 8km@7% + 3km@18% + 1.2km downhill = 42.2km with 6000 ft of climbing.

Pikes Peak and Yosemite

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Running near the summit of Pikes Peak in 2003

Each year when Pikes Peak race weekend nears, I feel a deep yearning to return. It’s as if all the years of training and racing up that mountain have left something inside me, (or more likely I left something on the mountain), and there is a sense of wanting to reconnect. I discovered myself as a runner on its slopes during the 4 consecutive years that i ran the marathon (9th in 2003, 1st in 2004, 2nd in 2005, 2nd in 2006). During those years, I discovered the patience, focus, and determination necessary to succeed on the mountain, and those qualities have defined my approach to training ever since.

I look forward to returning to my favorite race on my favorite mountain, but this year it was not to be.

So this past weekend I looked for an alternative mountain endeavor to take its place. Coincidentally, 6 month old Autumn was clearly jonesing for an adventure and Kristin’s brother Logan was visiting from mountain-deprived Michigan. So on Saturday morning, Kristin, Autumn, Logan and I packed the car and set off to Yosemite for the weekend.

For me, arriving in Yosemite is like a Catholic arriving at St. Peters Cathedral: An architectural masterpiece presided over by powers higher than your own. It’s at once humbling and empowering. No other place inspires me to explore its reaches more than Yosemite.

Pleasure to see you again mr sentinel.

Yosemite Valley from the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point

Once arriving in Yosemite Valley, we immediately set off on foot toward Glacier Point on the Four Mile Trail (it’s actually 4.6 miles to the top). Kristin and Logan hiked up with Autumn in the baby bjorne while I ran. Once the valley rim is achieved 3200′ of climbing later, spectacular views of Half Dome, Nevada/Vernal Falls, and the rest of the Valley are awarded. Tour groups and buses notwithstanding, it is one of the finest viewpoints in the Valley. [see the Strava route]

The Mist Trail. One of the finest short hikes in the world.

On Sunday, we collected our free coffee from the Lodge and ate breakfast while pouring over maps to plan the day’s adventures. Kristin would do a 10-mile loop around the valley’s scenic bike paths with the baby jogger, while Logan would do his own hike up to Mirror Lake. My objective for the day, was to run from Yosemite Valley (4000′ elev) to Tenaya Lake (8200′) via Clouds Rest (10,000′), 18 miles in total with 7000′ of climbing. The route was gloriously scenic, following the Mist Trail past Nevada and Vernal Falls and the John Muir Trail around Half Dome. The views from Clouds Rest, a massive granite formation perched high above the valley, are stunning. [see Strava route]

Yosemite, steeped in climbing lore and tradition, is also an ideal playground for the vertically inclined runner. The view from Clouds Rest.

The run finished at Tenaya Lake, where I took a bus back down to the Valley after a cool dip in the water.

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Tenaya Lake. Where rock climbers meet mountain runners meet standup paddle boarders.

It was a wonderful weekend in Yosemite. Only downside was not being able to do the hikes with the fam…

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Kristin & Autumn hiking up the Four Mile Trail. Autumn’s first visit to Yosemite!

Marin Ultra Challenge 50km

Inspired by last weekend’s Western States, i decided to undertake an ultra of my own last weekend here in my own backyard of the Marin Headlands.  I love sprinkling these local events into my training calender throughout the running season; they are the kind of races you can get up for an hour before the start, eat a quick breakfast, and pick up your bib 10 minutes before the gun goes off and be guaranteed a beautiful course and as hard of a workout as you desire.  Inside Trail Racing did an excellent job planning and marking a challenging but scenic course through the Marin Headlands and the lower slopes of Mt Tam.  It featured over 6500 ft of climbing over the 32+ miles, but the cool, foggy weather, beautiful scenery, and camaraderie of friends made for a fun day out on the trails.  Check out the wicked course profile on Strava.

It was only my fourth ultra ever and I was pleased to come away with a win while running what felt to be a comfortable and sustainable pace.  It’s a nice little confidence booster as i head into my next block of training.

Finishing the Marin Ultra Challenge 50km

 

And this picture, caught by a secret photographer, pretty much sums up what I am so grateful for this summer. Little autumn’s feet are just barely visible in the middle!

Tanford Tahoe photo

 

Western States

In what is becoming an annual tradition, i headed out to Tahoe on the 3rd weekend of June to watch a few hundred people run 100 miles from Squaw Valley to Auburn, CA.  More specifically, i was there to pace my buddy, Dave Mackey.  Dave has had great success at Western States, including a 2nd place (and course record breaking) finish several years ago behind Scott Jurek, and a top 10 finish last year.  But Dave is a true competitor and I knew he had yet to achieve his best performance on the course.

Glenn Tachiyama photo

I wanted Kristin and Autumn to witness the spectacle of one of the most famous and competitive ultra races in the world, so we rented a little condo in north tahoe for the weekend. We drove up early friday morning in time to run in the Montrail 6km Uphill Challenge, which follows the same first 6km as the Western States course  the next day (2000 ft of climbing).  It was a nice opportunity for all the support crew and pacers to have their shot of competition for the weekend.  Team Mackey got off to a strong start with Rickey Gates and Myself finishing 1-2; we would both pace Dave, in that order, the next day.

Saturday morning started off with a bit of rain and hail, but would turn to cool (by Western States standards) and sunny conditions later in the day; likely the best weather the race has seen in over a decade. I paced Dave from Forresthill to Ruckey Chuckey, a cruisy 18 mile downhill section.  Dave was in good spirits and running strong in 3rd place, behind Timothy Olsen and Ryan Sandes.  Still, pacing is always a bit awkward because the racer and the pacer are in completely difference zones.  On one hand you have the racer, who is totally dialed but most likely, feeling like shit.  And on the other hand you have the pacer who is feeling great and stoked to finally be running after watching other people run all day.  This disparity can cause two friends accustomed to jokes and banter to suddenly have very little to talk about.    Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable run down to the river, and i was stoked to see Dave running so well.

Dave would end up 4th, while smashing the masters course record in the process.  His wasn’t the only record setting run; the men and women’s overall course records were also demolished, no doubt aided by the ideal weather, but also an indication of the kind of talent that is being attracted by the sport of ultra running.

Rickey taking a Tecate at the mile 99 aid station.

Team Mackey: Rickey, Dave, Me, and Autumn (Kristin not shown)

Back on track

Hard to believe it’s been so long since my last post. At that time in early March, my daughter was barely 2 weeks old, I was just recovering from a 2 month Achilles tendonitis injury, and the Bay Area was just beginning to blossom into spring. Needless to say, much has changed since then.

Summer has arrived (climatically speaking), I’ve bounced back from my injury, and little Autumn is developing in all those special ways that only her family can fully appreciate (so I’ll spare you every last detail).

Having a baby, or going through any major life event, is a valuable opportunity to examine the priorities in one’s life. It’s amazing how the scarcity of free time brings clarity to how you want to spend it. There are some things that I thought I was excited about but have completely slipped off the radar in the last three months. Blogging, for example. Learning a foreign language might also fit into this category, although I remain hopeful this inspiration will return one day. Looking back on the last 3.5 months now that the dust has settled, It is the relationships and activities that prospered during this time that feel very significant. Family and friends (obviously), running, cooking, and travel come to mind. These aspects of my life are more meaningful and joyful now than ever before.

Running is going better than ever after returning from injury. I think i’ve found a nice balance between running as training (which is an aspect of running I have always loved, but has sometimes come at the cost of injury and burnout), and also running as a means of both experiencing joy, and coping with the world around me. A big part of this balance is learning the value of restraint, and I think i’m practicing that with greater success than i have before.

So far I have two races under my belt this spring, both on the roads. I did the Kalamazoo Half Marathon while visiting family back in early May and came away with a nice little unexpected win.

And this morning I met up with friends Nathan, Brett and Peter to run the 92nd Annual Statuto 8km Race in North Beach (aka little Italy). I first ran this race back in 2007 and appreciated it’s “small town race in a big city” atmosphere. Hosted by the Italian Athletic Club of San Francisco, the race is unlike any other. Donuts and coffee are served before the race. Salami and wine are given away as awards. And the trophies are reminiscent of what you might expect from a high school national cross country championship. Huge.

I’ll always remember what the rotund Italian announcer said to me when I collected my trophy back in 2007. “Congratulations. He looks like a runner doesn’t he? Now someone get that boy some food!” Classic.

Well, It seems the mega trophy is a tradition they are fond of, as I took home another one this morning, along with a bottle of Italian red wine. It was a great morning in the city with friends.

Statuto trophy (photo by Brett Rivers)

Looking forward to running my next race on trails, most likely in the Headlands of Marin in the next month, and some bigger mountains later in the summer. Stay tuned…

In restraint there is beauty

The Owl Trail near Muir Beach

I’ve been thinking about restraint lately.

And with 2 months off for a debilitating achilles injury owed largely to a lack of restraint, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.

As is often the case, I had a moment of clarity on the subject during a run on Friday, my second since returning from injury. Focusing on form, light steps, freedom of movement, it was pure joy. And with the late afternoon sun warming my back, and Mt Tam beckoning overhead, i just wanted to keep going. But i stopped after 10 minutes, did some light drills, some dynamic stretching, and went home.

Restraint. My new mantra for 2012.

By restraint i don’t mean to suggest that less is necessarily more. On the contrary, i think high volume is critical for the kind of endurance races I enjoy. More training stimulus = more adaptation, there’s no getting around that. The caveat of course, is that the stimulus must be balanced with recovery, and the optimal ratio of this balance is highly dependent on the individual. For me, I’m beginning to understand that i need to tilt the scale more towards recovery than I have in the past. This is where restraint comes in. It’s not going for that Monday morning run when the achilles is still sore from Sunday (even when it’s a gorgeous day and every other part of my body is begging me to go). It’s not running too hard on an easy day, even though I feel up for it. It’s saving some gas for the next day, because having a next day is so important.

The other aspect of restraint that occurred to me, is that it does not suggest limiting love or passion or creativity. Rather, it’s channeling it more effectively, with greater care and attention to the desired outcome.

I think about this a lot with cooking, where i believe every ingredient should have a specific purpose in a dish. It takes restraint to not add that extra vegetable to the salad sometimes. But if you’re already using fresh picked greens from the farmer’s market and maybe some chopped herbs from the garden, adding anything else besides lemon juice and quality olive oil would only detract from the vibrancy of the flavors. Of course, this is only true if you’re using quality ingredients to begin with.

The more I think about it, the more I can see how restraint benefits almost anything where there is a creative process involved.  Product design, architecture, cooking, parenting (!), and yes, running.  So here it goes.  The 2012 running season starts now, a clean slate, with as much drive and passion as i’ve ever had, but hopefully, with a bit more restraint.

Exercise is a dad’s best friend

The advice I hear over and over as a new parent is that sleep is the most important thing you can do to survive the first year of parenting. And believe me, after getting anywhere from 3-5 hours of sleep night after night, the idea of taking a daily nap sounds pretty appealing. And yet each day when given the opportunity, I turn to exercise instead.

I’m somewhat envious of friends who are less reliant on exercise. They seem to go about their day with ease, rolling with whatever the day presents without concern for how it will affect their ability to get out for a bike ride or run. I imagine these friends to have infinite time to read the newspaper at their local coffee shop, engage in lengthy philosophical discussions with their wives, play for hours with their kids, and write poetry in their spare time.

Meanwhile, i start twitching and becoming irritable if noon rolls around and i haven’t yet gotten my heart rate up to 150 (i’ve been pretty grouchy the last 2 months since my achilles injury). Yesterday was a perfect example. I was sitting in the living room, the late morning sun was streaming in through the windows, birds chirping outside, and the cutest little baby I’ve ever seen was napping in my lap. What could be better, right? And yet i was unbelievably irritable. The sun was too hot. Simple tasks too tedious. And I almost hurled my phone over the balcony after yet another AT&T dropped call. What’s the problem here? I need a nap. No, i need a bike ride.

So with the blessing from my awesome wife, I went for an hour and half ride along the stunning pacific coast on the famous Highway 1. The views of the ocean from this rolling highway (peacefully free of traffic on a weekday – hurray for paternal leave!!) are breathtaking. On a clear sunny day in winter, the Farralon Islands are visible on the horizon and the water is a beautiful turquoise color that seems only possible in the Mediterranean. From Stinson Beach, my route climbed up the lower slopes of Mt Tamalpais, where I danced on the pedals as if i was finishing the Alp d’Huez stage of the Tour de France. But instead of fist pumping fans and flag bearing countrymen cheering me on, 200 year old redwoods creaked and groaned overhead with approval. After summiting the climb, the ride finished with a cruisy descent through shady redwood groves as dappled light danced across the road. It was pure bliss. It was one of the best bike rides of my life.

Funny thing is, i’ve said that to myself after my last three bike rides.

When i come home from these rides and my wife asks how it was, i try to act nonchalant. But like a kid who just scarfed a chocolate bar out of the cupboard, the evidence is all over my face; pure smiles.

From that point on, the day seems to unfold with ease. Washing dishes feels less tedious. The crying sounds less piercing (as perfect as she is, she does cry on occasion). Sitting down and being still with my daughter, taking in all the details, the new facial expressions, and the funny little noises that come out of her, becomes an absolute joy.

I think it all comes down to patience. In addition to the health benefits, the pursuit of goals, and the fresh air, exercise makes me more patient. And patience, i’ll venture to guess, is one of the most important traits to foster as a successful father (and husband).

So for now, and the foreseeable future, i will have to abandon any hopes of leisurely mornings reading the newspaper, afternoon naps, and poetry writing. Because the one personal activity that makes me a better (i.e. patient) parent, husband, and employee, is exercise.

Coffee comes a close second.

Preamble to Fatherhood

Well, i’ve been a dad for a week now.

After barely 5 hours of labor on Wednesday February 22, my amazing wife gave birth to a little girl.  In a matter of hours, the great mystery of who the little person was that had been so expertly nestled in her belly for 9 months was revealed.  In that same amount of time, I went from being an unsuspecting naive young man to being an unsuspecting naive young father.  I now have a daughter to look at, to hold, and to (attempt to) comfort. As she lies next to me in her cocoon like swaddling cloth, the notion of what it means to be her father still feels a little uncertain, yet utterly gratifying. The following quote from the book Crawling: A Father’s First Year says it best:

In the back of my mind I knew I’d have children someday.  I just didn’t know how to get there with any grace. I was on one side of a canyon, aware the I’d be on the other side, but had no clue how to make the bridge.  And now, i am on the other side, and there was no bridge, just this wild biological leap of faith (and some discussion, some unprotected sex).  Here i am, a parent. I’m teetering on the edge of the other side though. I have to learn how to be a parent, to care for this baby.  It’s terrifying.

But i think i’m getting warmed up to it.  For now, i’ll follow my instincts, which tell me this: don’t drop her.  keep her safe.  give her nourishment and warmth.  love the heck out of her!

Tourist Clubbing

Maybe when i become a father i'll stop taking pictures while driving...

These last couple weeks have felt like I’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern.    Our baby’s due date — the biggest, most exciting, most frightening event of our lives — looms ahead of us in a matter of weeks, if not days (more on that in the next post).  And meanwhile, the achilles injury i suffered over a month ago continues to keep me out of commission on the running front.  But that holding pattern is sure to give way to exciting changes ahead.  The achilles is slowly coming around (fingers crossed) and the bun will be out of the oven in no time.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting out on some fun day trips in the Bay Area to take advantage of our waning days of independence.  On Saturday we drove up to the Sonoma Coast, about 1.5 hours north of Mill Valley.  This is a beautiful stretch of coast with dozens of small beaches connected by rocky bluffs and crashing surf.  It can be appreciated from the comfort of one’s car while driving the infamous Highway 1, or better yet, hiking the 3.5 mile Kortum trail.

Sonoma Coast

On the way back we stopped at Nicks Cove for a roadside lunch, which in this part of the state means oysters and wine.  Unfortunately, these are two things that Kristin isn’t supposed to eat while pregnant, but we found a couple other bits and pieces for her to enjoy.  Nicks Cove is almost too picturesque for its own good.  As if the restaurant’s location on the waterfront were not enough, it also has a small boat house at the end of the long dock, where more adventurous diners can enjoy their bivalves and rose surrounded by the ocean on all sides.  The whole structure gently rocks with the rhythm of the waves, and a wood stove keeps the place feeling warm and cozy.

The Boathouse at Nicks Cove

The Boathouse at Nicks Cove

Inside the boat house

Rose always tastes better outside

 

Saturday was a tough act to follow, but with friends visiting from San Francisco and LA, we put on our tour guide hats and headed for the hills.   On a sunny day in Marin, there is no better place to take visitors than the Tourist Club.  Nestled in the redwoods on the lower slopes of Mt Tam, the Tourist Club is a privately operated Bavarian style clubhouse, reached only by trail.  Visitors are welcome to hike in on weekends and enjoy a pint (or pitcher) of German beers out on the sunny deck overlooking Muir Woods.  The scene is remarkable.

The Tourist Club

Walking the Sun Trail to the Tourist Club

We finished the outing with a quick trip to the top of Mt Tam to enjoy the views of the City, before heading over the Golden Gate bridge for a nice dinner at Aziza.  Aziza has one of the best cocktail menus in the City, and their Michelin starred California-Moroccan food aint bad either.  It was a great day out with friends, in a place we continue to be proud to call home.

View of the city from the summit of Mt Tam

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

One of the great things about working in the SOMA (South of Market) district of San Francisco is the ability to take advantage of free days at the San Francsco Museum of Modern Art, or SFMOMA, on the first Tuesday of each month.  I try to make it each month, but all too often find myself too immersed in a project or struggling to meet a deadline, and push it off until the next month.  But today i made it happen, and i’m so happy i did.    After enjoying a Blue Bottle espresso on the Museum’s rooftop garden, as is my custom on each visit, I went immediately to the Dieter Rams exhibit on the second floor.

One of my favorite personal favorites

I won’t go into detail on Dieter Rams, as there are thousands of web blogs and volumes of books dedicated to the man and his design ethos.  But whether you’ve heard of him or not, you will undoubtedly recognize his design aesthetic and its influence on everything from Apple products, to furniture to kitchen appliances. He is probably most well known for his Universal Shelving System at Vitsoe and sleek and minimalist appliance designs while a product designer at Braun  (Steve Jobs famously used to tour the Macy’s kitchen department to draw inspiration from Braun for his next product idea, and much has been said in the blog world about the uncanny resemblance of Rams’ designs in Apples products).

But what impresses me most are Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of Good Design.  I had come across these before, but seeing them printed on the pristine white walls of the museum alongside the beautiful products in which they are manifested, really drove it home for me.  The genius of these principles is that they apply not only to consumer products like appliances, electronics, and furniture, but to all facets of design, including architecture, lighting design, and running shoes (to name a few that are more dear to my heart). I’m keen to  integrate these principles into my own design work with more intention after attending this exhibit.

Take a moment to read them below, if you haven’t already, and see if they resonate with you.  At the very least, maybe it will help you understand why you paid so much for your iPhone.

Dieter Ram’s Ten Principles of Good Design:

  • Good Design is innovative – The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.
  • Good design makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
  • Good design is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  • Good design makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  • Good design is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
  • Good design is honest – It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
  • Good design is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  • Good design is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
  • Good design is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
  • Good design is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

“My aim is to omit everything superfluous so that the essential is shown to the best possible advantage”

“There is no longer room for irrelevant things.  We have no longer got the resources.  Irrelevence is out.”

– Dieter Rams

Bay Area residents can check it out in person:
Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams
at the SFMOMA until February 20.