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“Good design” principles

Dear community, like perhaps many of you, I’m not only interested in IT – even if it is a lot of fun, mostly… πŸ™‚ I find design very interesting. For example the design of physical products and in architecture.

Anyone who walks through life with open eyes can discover a lot of designed things. Some things are beautiful, some are practical, some things are both together. Oh, and there are things you just don’t know what they are. Possibly an intermediate step towards something practical or beautiful. Or maybe real art πŸ˜‰ – I apologize for my lack of understanding for some works of art.

Because of my interest in design, I recently read about Dieter Rams, an industrial designer. He introduced some “Good design” principles. Below is the list of principles as mentioned on Wikipedia:

“According to him, “good design”:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. is minimal – Less is more. Simple as possible but not simpler. Good design elevates the essential functions of a product.”

As it is the case with all principles: you can discuss them very intensive. But that’s less of my intention. Everyone can perhaps take something away for themselves here to think about. So it doesn’t matter whether you partially or completely agree with these principles or reject them. Just thinking about and deciding for or against can make a difference. Sometimes you also discover connections to other disciplines. For example software design πŸ˜‰


Best regards, thanks for reading and stay healthy



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  • Hello Michael,

    I like the way you have drafted this post regarding design principles and I completely believe in your statement "Anyone who walks through life with open eyes can discover a lot of designed things." Rather I would put it this way, In general even with open eyes we (a normal human being) tend to not put an effort to think about the reason why certain thing has been designed the way it is and be just judgmental about the product. Just having a deep look at the product or anything in our regular life is more important I feel.



    • That could quickly turn into a long conversation about our society and its everyday behavior πŸ˜‰ I understand you very well.

  • 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.

    Under this definition, an iPhone has never had good design! (And indeed all other smartphones, except possibly the Fairphone).

    Your list is succinct and to the point. I just know I'm not good at aesthetics!Β 

  • Thanks for sharing, Michael!

    If you are into that sort of thing, you might want to read about another industrial designer Raymond Loewy (creator of Air Force One and Coca Cola bottle design, among many other things). His MAYA principle (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) has many things in common with "Good Design" and has snazzier abbreviation. πŸ™‚

    • I know the MAYA principle from an older comment of you πŸ™‚ I think there are a lot of good principles in other areas which can be used in software design, too... but we have to find them πŸ˜‰