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Ten principles for good design

Dieter Rams Vitsoe shelves
606 universal shelving system, 1960, manufacturer: Vitsœ, design by Dieter Rams.

1. Good design is innovative.
2. Good design makes a product useful.
3. Good design is aesthetic.
4. Good design makes a product understandable.
5. Good design is unobtrusive.
6. Good design is honest.
7. Good design is long-lasting.
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
10. Good design is as little design as possible.

Dieter Rams (1985)

Read a ten-part series based on Dieter Rams’ ten principles for good design. The Inksie brand asked writers and illustrators to contribute to the project. Each writer wrote on one of Rams’ principles; each illustrator reacted to a writer’s essay.

Interview with Dieter Rams on designboom.
Dieter Rams on Wikipedia.
Dieter Rams on the Design Museum.

My second book on Amazon

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16 comments about “Ten principles for good design”

  1. Good to see that no 9 was on the list way back in 1985! I’d say that had increased in importance since.

  2. An interesting, yet undoubtedly true list. What I find most difficult when working on my own projects is maintaining functional simplicity (as it relates somewhat to #10). It sometimes drives me nuts, as there’s a very fine line between too little and too much… but reaching that middle ground is key, and when it happens, everything flows together much more beautifully.

    Dieter Rams is truly innovative, thanks for the awesome find!

  3. I disagree with the last, or at least with its phrasing, and here is why: The 2nd ‘design’ in the phrase can be read as ‘visual / functional overload’, and that’s contradictory to the inherent nature of design. Design is first and foremost a process , not an outcome.

  4. I really think being innovative is so many things regardless of what anyone’s interpretation is. Being innovative is really the ability to take something that someone invented and making it into something else completely new or combining elements to make them more useful or purposeful. It’s kind of like the drink ‘Brandy’. The ability to make Brandy existed for years but it took someone innovative to actually see that.

  5. Great post, David!

    Those principles are pretty much universal and can be applied to anything. It was refreshing watching that video this morning, and has helped kick start my day a bit!

  6. Good design is good business.

  7. Number 10…. Less is More.

  8. Thanks for sharing this. Number 8, “good design is thorough down to the last detail,” is so true. It really is a pleasure to use a tool or object and realize that someone really put a lot of thought into how it will work and function. That extra thought really differentiates a good design from a great one.

  9. The points listed above are so true, i think when you are a designer, those 10 points naturally evolve themselves within your design concept, so to list them individually is making a conscious effort to deliberate what makes good design.

  10. Nicely written! Short and sweet, yet oh so true :)

  11. Thanks for sharing this!

    Dieter Rams talks about these principles in the documentary ‘Objectified’. It’s a great film about design and I’d would recommend it to anyone whether you are in graphics, web, industrial, interior..any type of design.

  12. how about, good design is the visual equivalent to the product/service’s essence?

  13. I agree with that. I like the statement good design is as little design as possible. Too bad most clients can’t understand that, lol.

  14. A good design should speak the vision of the brand.

  15. These are great; but I’m really fascinated by how they interact with the idea of good design as art, and how those two massive visual monoliths are linked…

  16. Just as good design is concise and functional, so are these ten principles! Such a great litmus test for us designers to gauge the utility of our work. Graphic designers, industrial designers, architects or otherwise – we can all use these principles to sharpen our skill! Thanks David.

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