Insights Newsletter

Sign up for our Insights Newsletter and receive regular news & views from the team including:

  • Our take on the world
  • Free resources & downloads
  • News & inspiration
  • Ridiculous things that happen here

I have read and agree to the Privacy policy

A bit scared we'll email you crap? We hate spammers so we promise we'll only send you awesome content roughly once a month.

Come & Say Hello

We love building relationships with our clients that will last. Give us a call to talk through your ideas.

01279 883119

Pop in for a Cuppa:
Rubber Cheese Towers
Unit N, The Maltings,Station Road,
Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire CM21 9JX

What is good design?

Good design is completely subjective. You only have to whisper the words "London 2012 Logo" to hear that some people think it's brilliant, and others think it looks like a bad scribble or something that resembles a Simpson's porn movie! Weird I know. I’ve been asked the question numerous times in my career and have asked others the same. I've never been able to clearly answer it and I can't remember anyone I've heard or spoken to tell me either... until very recently.

Written By:
Paul Wright
  • 03/10/2011
  • 4 Mins to Read
  • By: Paul Wright
  • Share

Dieter Rams was born in 1932 and was chief of design for Braun from 1961 – 1995. He was responsible for designing products like the SK-4 record player and the 606 Universal Shelving System by Viscoe. Many of the items he has designed are featured in design museums around the world including MoMA in New York.

In the early 1980s Dieter was increasingly concerned by design and the “impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises”. That was when he asked himself: is my design good design?

It was at this time he set out the 10 most important principles for what is considered to be good design. Some people refer to them as the ‘Ten Commandments’.

Good Design:

1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

When I read these 10 principles for the first time it was like I’d had a brick thrown at my head! This man is a pure genius and sums up perfectly what good design really is. Is there anything you would add to the list?

The 10 principles of good design is Copyright of Dieter Rams. The image of Dieter Rams used on the blog picture is taken from the Viscoe website

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment.