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.

Comment

James Dyson on Building Innovative Culture

Dyson Ball Image

When a designer as successful as James Dyson talks about engineering and manufacturing as one of the cornerstones of innovation I tend to listen:

… Mr. Dyson is an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron on how to accelerate Britain’s development of new technology and build up its manufacturing and export prowess.

Prominent business leaders in America have recently pointed to the same issue — that modern manufacturing, and the scientific and engineering skills that make it possible, are a crucial pillar of a healthy economy. The two most notable and outspoken on this subject have been Andrew S. Grove, the former chairman of Intel, and Jeffrey R. Immelt, chief executive of General Electric.Relying on services alone and neglecting manufacturing, they say, is short-sighted and pushes good jobs abroad.

Dyson’s Ingenious Britain, linked in the article, is also an insightful read.

Read the full article at NYT.com: How to Make an Engineering Culture

As always, comments are welcome in the discussion forum.

Cross-Disciplinary Education of Design and Engineering Students

One of the best ideas I’ve heard in a while:

Cross-Disciplinary Education of Design and Engineering Students.

…an industrial design professor and an engineering professor decided to switch students for one quarter each year, each teaching their contrasting discipline and perspective. The engineering students are exposed to creativity techniques, user empathy, and visual communication. Industrial design students are experimenting with injection molded polymers, carbon fiber composite lay-up, thermoforming and materials science. The two groups later are combined into design teams to work on an industry sponsored project together. …

Engineering Competition

When I finished reading this article, “BYD throws 5,000 low-cost engineers at auto battery packs,” I wasn’t too surprised to hear that a gigantic Chinese manufacturing company was working on new battery technology. After spending a total of about 6 months in Chinese factories over the past 3 years, I wasn’t surprised to hear that they are planning to sell said batteries to competing auto companies. I also wasn’t surprised to hear that their engineers get paid about 15% of what most entry to mid-level American engineers make. See, I’ve been pondering this situation for a long time. If you’re an American or European engineer you should worried about how you can compete with someone of the same skill level making almost a tenth of what you make. What is so special about your skill set that makes you worth ten times the money? There are CEO’s all over the country that aren’t convinced. The design and manufacturing climate is changing. How are high-paid design and research engineers going to justify their value? I have some ideas and I’m curious to hear yours.

Tolerances and Material Removal Processes

If you haven’t already, I recommend reading and understanding my previous post about tolerances before digging in here.

Material removal processes are often used to build tooling for other manufacturing processes such as plastic molds, dies and punches for metal stamping and forming, extrusion dies, EDM electrodes, and many others.  Understanding material-removal process capabilities will be invaluable in understanding capabilities of downstream processes.

Common material-removal processes include lapping and honing, grinding, boring, turning, broaching, reaming, milling, planing and shaping, and drilling.

Engineering Toolbox has a good summary of tolerance limits for different material-removal processes:

Tolerance Grades
4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
Lapping and Honing
Cylindrical Grinding
Surface Grinding
Diamond Turning
Diamond Boring
Broaching
Reaming
Turning
Boring
Milling
Planing and Shaping
Drilling

ansi-standard-tolerances

As you can see, lapping and honing give the tightest tolerances while milling, planing and shaping, and drilling have wider tolerances.  Also notice that  the tolerances get bigger as the part size gets bigger, regardless of process.

This is great information, but it doesn’t tell you anything about cost.  In general, as tolerances get smaller the parts gets more expensive regardless of process.  That is, a milled part with a dimension of 1.00 +/-0.05mm will be more expensive than a part spec’d at 1.00 +/-0.20mm.  How much more?  It’s impossible to know for certain because there are so many other factors that affect cost.  The take-home message is simply that better parts are more expensive.

Another key piece of information you do not get from this table and chart is any indication of the applications for these processes.  If lapping gives me the tightest tolerances, why don’t I just make all of my parts by lapping them?  Well, lapping only works on flat surfaces.  I suggest clicking through the links above and checking out what wikipedia has to say about each process.  All of the overviews are pretty good.

We will discuss applications of these process as they relate to mechanical components in later posts.

On Form, Curvature, and Emotion

Gray Holland of Alchemy Labs has a great article up on Core77 about the relationships among form, surface curvature, and emotion. You can argue some of the technicalities around class-A surfacing and “C” versus “G” continuity definitions, but his insight into the fundamentals of form is quite enlightening.

He also has a great perspective on the now-decaying debate of “engineering” versus “design.”

When we speak of product development, we frequently look at the domains of Design and Engineering separately, evaluating them in different ways. Engineering, at its core, is a measurable process; Design, for the most part, is not. This gives the former an inherent advantage: engineering efforts are easily quantifiable, and this provides them with authority. Design is intuitive, working on the non-verbal levels of our experience, sometimes triggering our most subversive emotional states; this makes it difficult to evaluate empirically. Lacking an analytical vernacular, Design is labeled subjective, when it is actually the agent of universal truth through form.

Curvature Evolution

Getting Started

Before getting into details I’m going to post a few quick notes on fundamentals. I will be referring back to these posts as the discussion goes deeper. Some of what I have to discuss may not be too interesting to those of you with degrees in engineering. I’m hoping to grab the interest of non-engineers/DIYers in the audience along with the product design professionals. I’m also hoping other seasoned professionals will comment with their thoughts.

What Do You Want to Know?

I have a few ideas for posts and topics of discussion and I’d like to know what would be most valuable to you. Most of my input will focused on practical applications in product design and development but I’m open to other ideas.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Tolerance analysis and datum selection
  • Design and evaluation of assembly constraints
  • Designing thermal systems
  • Stress analysis
  • CAD modeling techniques

Please post a comment with anything else you think might start an interesting discussion.

Comments are happening on the new Form Loves Function Discussion Forum.

Edit 2010/03/15: posted link to the forum; comments closed on the thread.