Within the last 50 years, there have been many talented designers, but perhaps none as influential as Dieter Rams. As a designer, Rams understood that design is best influenced by understanding people and the world around us.
His own works and the works of many other contemporary designs and designers today have been influenced by a motto of “Less, but better”, were simplistic and minimalistic design choices have been the norm.
During the 1980s, a set of principles around good design were formed by Rams, principles which can inform all manner of design types. These are Dieter Ram’s 10 principles for good design, quoted from the designer himself.
1.Good Design is Innovative
Rams said that “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.”
The important thing to note here is that innovation must always keep occurring. The technology of our day and age keeps on getting better and better and the possibilities for improvements in innovative design because of this are boundless.
Designers in the past and even more so for designers now, there is no excusable reason to not keep innovating and improving.
2.Good Design Makes a Product Useful
Rams suggested that “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.”
Every product we buy and use is required to have a specific design and function. The products we purchase need to be useful and meet the purpose they are designed for.
In addition to this, the function of the product ought to meet other criteria, such as aesthetic satisfaction for its consumer. Any aspect of the design which does not meet the product’s purpose, it’s aesthetic or its design criteria ought to be removed.
3.Good Design is Aesthetic
“The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.”
The design of any product we buy needs to be inherently aesthetic. The looks of an item will ultimately inform our opinions and impact our daily well-being.
While the functional design of an item ought to be more important than the aesthetics, as humans we all enjoy things that look good. The natural impact of good aesthetics is a delight in the visual quality of whatever item is in question.
4.Good Design makes a Product Understandable
“It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.”
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of the design of a product is being able to be understood simply. While the design of some products requires documents, instruction manuals, or some form of explanation on how to use the product, any product which is simple enough to use is designed well.
Should a product require excessive amounts of documentation and instructions to be used effectively, perhaps there is an issue in the design of the product.
5. Good Design us 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.”
Any product that is created with the designer in mind or created with an idea of who the user might be or how they might use it is a product deemed to fail.
The very best products are the ones that allow the consumer to do exactly what they want to do without much restriction, all the while assisting them to do their tasks productively and joyfully.
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.”
The design of a product needs to be honest with the people who use it. This means that it doesn’t make any promises through its design that it does things that are not part of its function.
Were a promise to be made through the visual design, the right and honest thing to do would be to ensure that the product is able to function the way that is implied by its design.
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.”
Clothes, cars, toys – things which are fashionable or look cool which we often toss away as soon as the collective society decides such a design is unfashionable.
Therefore, designing anything to be fashionable is not a very useful aspect of a design. Things which are fashionable to our society today can be unfashionable tomorrow, so a good design will last longer than the fashionable things in our society because it never needed to be fashionable in the first place.
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 user.”
The very best designers are set apart from the good designers by the account of the care and accuracy that they take in developing their designs.
The work of a designer is meant to understand and respect the user and therefore every single step of the design process ought to be considered fully. Every step, input, image, and text in the design process is designed to impress and assist the consumer in everything they do.
9.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.”
Some organizations and industries have a significant effect on the physical environment in their work.
Design isn’t meant to be wasteful and conserves resources where it can and seeks to reduce the physical and visual pollution in the world, both physically and digitally.
10. Good Design As Little Design As Possible
“Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.”
The motto of Rams, “less, but better.” The way that we design ought to always be with intention and never more than is necessary.
Any aspect of a design that is non-essential and not useful for the function and workings of a product doesn’t serve the user and can be removed so that the product does not contain useless material.
There is much to consider here. Dieter Ram’s 10 Principles for Good Design can be seen to apply to both industrial and visual design works and provide good guidelines to suggest the best ways to create new designs. Our designs ought to be helpful and innovative, using the materials we have well and effectively.
Our designs also ought to be thoughtful and take careful consideration of the views of those who consume them. These principles are useful for anyone who seeks to make designs, and a helpful guide to direct us in ways of doing design work much more effectively. Also, check out 7 Most Visited Design Installations From Around the World.
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