If you've never heard of Dieter Rams, that's okay, so long as you learn his name now and commit it to memory. You may, however, recognize some of his products as he was an industrial designer for Braun and ran their design shop for decades. Most people, at some point or another, have owned a Braun product and therefore have probably had something that Rams' hands have helped craft in their home this whole time. Rams is an icon among the world of design. And I love his work for the sheer beauty of it, and the way he once described his own design philosophy: Less, but better. And, if you do some research into Braun's products throughout the last several decades, then you can see that philosophy rather clearly. If you need to see further impact of Rams' work and philosophy, look no further than all the Apple products for the last decade or so. Apple and industrial design guru, Jony Ive, has a sweet spot for Rams' work.
In addition to his "Less, but better," philosophy, Rams created and widely shared his 10 Principles for Good Design. Now, Rams was an industrial designer, and for the uninitiated that simply means he designed concepts and devices that optimize their function, appearance, and value for the user and manufacturer. He made tangible products and devices that serve a specific function, rather than something that is purely visual and informative. Graphic design and industrial design are different disciplines, but his principles are useful for the graphic designer as well. But for the normal consumer, sometimes we never stop and think about the thought process and development of a product that we use periodically, or regularly. Unless, of course, it breaks right out of the gate and we curse the tortured soul that so poorly designed said product. Sure, it may have been ridiculously cheap and seemed a decent deal, but c'mon! Right?
Anyways, here are Rams' 10 Principles of Good Design. Read them, and then think about some of them the next time you use your coffee maker, computer, smartphone, car, or that self-cleaning litter box you got for your cat.
1. Good design is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving 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 not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could 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 appear 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 minimizes 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.
(Image: Justin Gum)