Following a series of recent projects we found ourselves in a situation that I’m sure many designers have come across in the past. We found ourselves asking “what makes design, good design?”. It is too easy to get self involved within a piece of work and loose sight of the end goal or the principle message it is trying to convey. It would seem however, that many designers have come up against this question themselves in the past.
Dieter Rams, a German born industrial designer, became increasingly concerned by the state of the world around him, and in the early 1980’s asked himself the question we all ask ourselves: Is my design good design?
A difficult question to answer as good design cannot be measured in a predetermined way, Rams decided to put together what he considered to be the ten most important principles for good design. Reading through these, we still feel they are relevant 30 years on. They are as follows:
Good design is innovation
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 emphasises 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 we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But 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 talk. 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 minimises 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.