I’ve always been inspired by the 10 principles for good design by Dieter Rams.
He asked himself this very simple question: “Is my design good design?” The answer he formed became the basis for his celebrated 10 principles…
- is innovative – 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.
- is aesthetic – 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.
- 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.
- is honest – 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.
- 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.
Fast Forward to 2018. Co.Design has published an updated version of the 10 Good Design Principals. Read the full article here.
- GOOD DESIGN IS TRANSPARENT. Good design should be transparent enough to empower users–to help them make informed decisions about their privacy, their browsing habits, and more–without overwhelming them.
- GOOD DESIGN CONSIDERS BROAD CONSEQUENCES. Good design chases more than clicks. It’s mindful of potential impact–whether economic, social, cultural, or environmental–and it’s mindful of that impact over time. There’s one simple test, according to Rob Girling and Emilia Palaveeva of the design consultancy Artefact: “Don’t just ask ‘how might we?’” they write, invoking a common term of art in design thinking. “Ask, ‘At what cost?’”
- GOOD DESIGN IS SLOW. Good design takes time. It favors long-term solutions over quick fixes. As Basecamp designer Jonas Downey puts it: “Now it’s time to slow down and take stock of what’s broken.”
- GOOD DESIGN IS HONEST. Good design “does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is,” Rams writes. “It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.”
- GOOD DESIGN IS POLITICAL. Good design is upfront about its potential to shape the political landscape.
- GOOD DESIGN IS MINDFUL OF SYSTEMS. Good design, then, is no longer about solving discrete problems: It’s about considering the sum of the parts. “The challenge is to rise above the distraction of the details and widen your field of vision,” writes Foundation Capital partner Steve Vassallo. “Try to see the whole world at once and make sense of it. It’s a heady challenge, but you either design the system or you get designed by the system.”
- GOOD DESIGN IS GOOD WRITING. In his “2017 Design in Tech Report,” author John Maeda anointed writing as design’s newest unicorn skill. It’s easy to see why. With the rise of chatbots and conversational UI, writing is often the primary interface through which users interact with a product or service. (Siri’s dad jokes had to be written by someone.) But even designers who don’t work on interface copy should be able to articulate themselves clearly. The better their writing, the better their chances of selling an idea.
- GOOD DESIGN IS MULTIFACETED. The days of brands peddling a single identity are gone. The Emotional Intelligence Agency, a U.K.-based branding firm, analyzed the brands that more than 5,000 people said they sought out. The results were surprisingly consistent. Top brands, from Victoria’s Secret to Taco Bell, had four seemingly disparate traits: humor, usefulness, beauty, and inspiration. The takeaway? In an increasingly complex retail landscape, brands must adopt multifaceted personalities to connect emotionally with consumers.
- GOOD DESIGN TAKES RISKS. Ideo studied more than 100 companies in an attempt to quantify innovation and came away with six key insights. Among them? Challenging the status quo has real business benefits. According to the study, chances of a failed product launch decreased by 16.67% when people felt comfortable acting with autonomy.
- GOOD DESIGN IS FOR PEOPLE–AND MACHINES. Historically, computers have been designed for human users. But as machines grow smarter and artificial intelligence takes root in people’s daily lives, designers will have to build for a new type of user: the human-machine hybrid. So suggests Normative CEO Matthew Milan, who argues that hybrids can do more than any person or computer could accomplish alone, like navigate traffic or compete in superpowered chess games. Looking ahead, good design will help people trust a system–even when they know they don’t have much agency within it.