10 principles round doing things right

Dieter Rams, Financial Times
Published: Sep 08, 2007

The fundamental thinking, the design philosophy, if you like, that has influenced me and my fellow designers was summed up in the early 1980s in 10 simple statements. They are a helpful means of orientation and understanding. They are not binding; good design is in a constant state of redevelopment - just like technology and culture.

1. Good design is innovative.

It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all functions of a product. The possibilities, in this respect, are by no means exhausted. Technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.

2. Good design makes a product useful.

The product is purchased in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose - in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimise the utility of a product.

3. Good design is aesthetic.

The aesthetic quality of a product - and the fascination it inspires - is an integral part of the product's utility. Without doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, that you are unable to relate to. However, it has always been a hard task to argue about aesthetic quality for two reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to talk about anything visual, since words have a different meaning for different people. Secondly, aesthetic quality deals with details, subtle shades, harmony and the equilibrium of a whole variety of visual elements. A good eye is required, schooled by years and years of experience, in order to be able to draw the right conclusion.

4. Good design helps a product to be understood.

It clarifies the structure of the product. Moreover, the product speaks, in a sense. Optimally, the product is self-explanatory and saves you the long, tedious perusal of the operating manual.

5. Good design is unobtrusive.

Products that answer this criterion are tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should always be neutral; they must not be seen; they must underline their usefulness.

6. Good design is honest.

An honestly designed product must not claim features it does not have - being more innovative, more efficient, of higher value. It must not influence or manipulate buyers and users.

7. Good design is durable.

It is nothing trendy that might be out-of- date tomorrow. This is one of the major differences between well-designed products and trivial objects for a waste-producing society. Waste must no longer be tolerated.

8. Good design is consistent to the last detail.

Thoroughness and accuracy of design are synonymous with the product and its functions, as seen through the eyes of the user.

9. Good design is concerned with the environment.

Design must contribute to a stable environment and a sensible use of raw materials. This means considering not only actual pollution but also the visual pollution and destruction of our environment.

10. Good design is as little design as possible.

Back to purity, back to simplicity.