Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design

It’s a classic that you have probably seen before and here it is again for quick and easy reference:

  • Good design 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.
  • 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.

Copyright Dieter Rams, amended March 2003 and October 2009

Though Dieter was primarily an industrial designer every one of these points are equally applicable to product engineering.

Check out the interview for some additional context.

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