Jeremy Allan

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The Ten Principles of Design

Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams is one of the most prolific and influential designers of the 20th century. Working across multiple mediums while always staying consistent and pure to form. Dieter is an innovator of minimalism in the field of industrial design. Creating and implementing the ten design principles informed and guided his industrial design work and was a key component to his success. Understanding the importance and universality of these principles can benefit any creative throughout their career.



1.       Good Design is innovative

Innovation is characterized as creating new ideas; original and with creative thinking. Whether the technique is new or old, the ability to adapt a perceived notion and alter it to become something different is innovation. Dieter Rams said, “The first question is not if someone should be designing something but how”. This generalizes the belief that Braun did not need to concern themselves with what the object of design is, rather what that object should be. Fostering the creative space to push past current perceived ideas of a product. Designing the ideal state of that given product, therefor innovating on the meaning of that product. “Is the product that we are designing really necessary? Are there not already other, similar, tried and tested appliances that people have got used to and are good and functional? Is innovation in this instance really necessary?” Innovative design progresses with the development of new technology; no design can ever be an end in itself.

2.       Good design must be useful.

Useful by nature is a term of subjectivity, but it can be defined more specifically when characterizing product design. The usefulness of a product it’s ability to, satisfy specific needs that a person may set upon it. What it really comes down to is the role it plays in a person’s life. Whether large or small the affects of that object need to benefit the user, both functionally and psychologically. Good design promotes usefulness while eliminating anything that may take away from the overall experience.

3.       Good design is aesthetic design.

The aesthetic qualities of a product are integral to the usefulness of that product. There is a lasting affect on your well being directly correlated to the objects that surround you. “But only a well-executed objects can be beautiful” 

4.       Good design makes a product understandable.

Designing a product that is understandable allows the user to instantly form a connection to that product. Creating an intuitive design should have the ability to relay the reasoning for its being. Whether we are talking about form, function or aesthetics a comprehensive design should be able to explain these visually. At best it is self-explanatory.

5.       Good design is honest.

 Honesty comes in many forms when discussing design, honesty to material, color, form, functionality, ect.. Good design applies honesty to all aspects of that design. Conscious decisions are made from experience and knowledge, which helps facilitate the understanding of what honesty, may embody while dealing with that design element. “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”. Honesty is the story told by an object, allowing its features to portray itself holistically.

6.       Good design is unobtrusive.

Purpose built products act as tools to their users. Not embodying qualities of decoration or of art. Rather good design does not intrude into a users life; it is neutral and should be restrained. This allows room for the user to express ones self with out being distracted by any object, but also leaves room for that object to evolve into an individualized product for that user.

7.       Good design is long-lasting

Long lasting design avoids being fashionable, with-in todays throwaway society fashion catalyzes the rate at which objects are deemed outdated. By avoiding this, it increases the lifespan of that product allowing it to last many years.

8.       Good design is consistent in every detail.

Consistency through design is not leaving any detail up to chance; there should not be anything arbitrary about design. Every detail and feature is purpose built and given that same amount of thought in its creation. Care and accuracy should be essential steps in the design process in order to show respect for the end user. By the end of the design process a designer should have the means to answer any and all questions a consumer may ask of them.

9.       Good design is environmentally friendly.

 Good design is conscious on the affects it has on the environment, taking important steps to contribute to the preservation of the environment. This can be achieved in many ways whether it’s through material selection or the process used in manufacturing. The goal of environmentally friendly design in Rams’s opinion is to, “Conserve 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 inessentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.” (Dieter Rams) The tenth principle is the principle that most closely links all ten together. By simply following the concept that less is better, a designer is able to focus their attention to the key characteristics of that design. Every detail gets the attention it needs, providing a more caring and thoughtful design process. 


These design principles were created with the intention of natural evolution, changing and adapting over time, bettering the collective understanding of what ‘good design’ should be. “Design has to be such that the product can meet all the demands that the user places on it as well as possible. The better the designer has anticipated the needs of the user and the better the products meets these needs, the better the design”. 

-Jeremy Allan



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