Defining good design

Dieter RamsHow does one define “good design”? There are many ways to separate good from bad design. Although some people will say it’s all rather subjective -really, it isn’t ¬

Design can be analyzed and evaluated; in fact it should be. Good design can be recognized by  applying some simple rules- rules that are not difficult to learn and which you will come to appreciate when you are next evaluating a design yourself ¬

I personally subscribe to (most of) the philosophy of one of my design heroes, Dieter Rams. Here are his ten principles for good design:

1. 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.

2. 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 while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10. 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.

 

If you enjoyed this read, you will enjoy the following video of Dieter Rams talking about his design philosophy 

8 Comments

  1. by Claire on June 19, 2013  11:35 PM Reply

    Excellent read. Thank you for sharing this!

  2. by Donna Z. Davenport on June 22, 2013  6:02 PM Reply

    After studying architecture at the Werkkunstschule Wiesbaden, the highly awarded and respected Dieter Rams landed a job at the architectural firm of Otto Apel (1953). Two years later, he left the firm and joined the product company Braun, where he created a legacy. Within the 40 years of working at Braun, Rams produced and oversaw over 500 innovative products as chief of design. Many of his designs are featured in museums throughout the world.

  3. by Karl Ellis on June 24, 2013  7:02 AM Reply

    designed by Rams and Dietrich Lubs, and the appearance of the now playing screen in Apple's own Podcast app mimics the appearance of the Braun TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder. In Gary Hustwit 's 2009 documentary film Objectified , Rams states that Apple Inc. is one of the few companies designing products according to his principles.

  4. by Gabriel Senn on June 27, 2013  1:36 PM Reply

    I am an avid collector of Braun products myself. Thank you for your contributions.

  5. by Jeannette Hull on July 25, 2013  1:12 AM Reply

    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.

    • by Gabriel Senn on July 25, 2013  8:12 PM Reply

      True enough Jeannette. Thank you for your contribution!

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