If you work in design or innovation, you might not necessarily have heard of Dieter Rams.
But you will have definitely felt his impact in the design principles which underlay much of his work.
Rams is renowned for his “less, but better” design philosophy, which helped him design a number of iconic products for both Braun (electronics) and Vitsœ (furniture and the 606 Shelving system) throughout the 1950s and 1960s, making both companies household names.
But by the 1970s, Rams noticed a number of detrimental trends in the world of design, which he described as:
“an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.”
This sparked a question in him, which was “how can I tell if my design is good design?”
This led him to catalogue a list of principles he considered vital for good design, which are often now referred to as his Ten Commandments:
The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
Makes a product useful
A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
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.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.
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.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.
It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.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.
It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
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.
Is environmentally friendly
Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
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.
So looking out over this list, think back to anything you and your company are currently designing. How does it match with these principles? May they serve you well as a guide.