Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design

Dieter Rams (born May 20, 1932 in Wiesbaden, Hessen) is a German industrial designer closely associated with the consumer products company Braun and the Functionalist school of industrial design.

Back in the early 1980s, Dieter Rams was becoming increasingly concerned by the state of the world around him – “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” Aware that he was a significant contributor to that world, he asked himself an important question: is my design good design?

As good design cannot be measured in a finite way he set about expressing the ten most important principles for what he considered was good design. (Sometimes they are referred as the ‘Ten commandments’.)

Here they are.

Dieter Rams: 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 emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst 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 we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But 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 talk. 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.”

Remember this was written in 1980 and is as relevant today as ever!


2 responses to “Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design

  1. With minor tweaks, this same list can be applied to writing. And as discussed before, writing is like inventing 🙂 Thanks Kevin. I will be saving this list to check my content in the future.

    1. Good writing is innovative – While every story idea may have been told, perspective is unique to the author AND to the reader.

    2. Good writing is useful – Entertainment or education, writing should have a purpose.

    3. Good writing is aesthetic.

    4. Good writing makes a product, service, or story understandable.

    5. Good writing is unobtrusive – Writing should not get in the way of the information or the story.

    6. Good writing is honest.

    7. Good writing is long lasting.

    8. Good writing is thorough, down to the last detail.

    9. Good writing is environmentally-friendly – This one now fits, with eReaders and computers (to read blogs) becoming popular.

    10. Good writing is as little writing as possible [to get the point across].

  2. Excellent point and appeily put. If we could use 10 rules or guide lines for our professional vocation it can help us stay focused and on point. My old buddy Moses started the trend many years ago. Thanks for the analogy NC Muse

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