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Dieter Rams: Ten Principles For Good Design (Adapted For The 21st Century)

Dieter Rams is known for his ten principles for good design, but the design philosophies have changed in the 21st century. Thus 2017 is considered to be a year of a turning point, so that leading designers are beginning to question their historical role models. One of these role models is the - known under the nickname - “Aufräumer der Nation”. Dieter Rams was an industrial and product designer at the manufacturers Braun and Vitsoe for many years and has significantly influenced the design language of the 20th century. But the design community agrees that his ten theses for good design, which he developed with his team back in the mid-1970s, now need an update.

Good design: What changes to Dieter Rams' principles?

Contrary to what the design community might think, the ten theses for good design by Dieter Rams are by no means obsolete. Rather, the “ten principles”, which have their roots in industrial design at the end of the 19th century, must be realigned and adapted to modernity. But how does good design work today?


Gutes Design ist transparent

User-friendliness became the dominant paradigm decades ago because it seemed to be of paramount importance. But the world has changed. Users today distrust all too smooth interfaces that have been trimmed solely for usability. Therefore, nowadays design should also provide transparency. Users should be able to decide their data can collect.


Good design takes far-reaching consequences into account

Highly user-friendly design provides users only with the fulfillment of their immediate needs. The long-term consequences of computer and smartphone use are not sufficiently taken into account. This is a shortcoming, says today's design community. Good design should keep an eye on economic, social, cultural and ecological consequences.


Good design is slow

The speed of modern design uses companies in their sales - not people in their decisions. Therefore, new slowness should be introduced again. Consumers should think about what they are currently using through the design.


Good design is honest

Dieter Rams already established the principle of honesty, it is more topical than ever. Modern technologies can manipulate consumers much better than before, but the design should counteract this. People have to recognize through design how powerful or innovative a product really is. Dieter Rams wrote that all unfulfillable promises should be eliminated from the design.


Good design is political

Designs and codes distribute power. Thus design is political and should become aware of its responsibility. There are many examples of this, such as Facebook's influence on the last US presidential election. Job portals are more subtle, looking for men for high posts with design tricks (pictures, language). With predictive police software, the design may lead to a racist search.


Good design is system-compatible

The idea behind this term is that all things are connected and designers should take this into account. They must be able to think in systems, because the world is becoming increasingly complex.


Good design is good articulation

That's good writing. Designers must also be able to articulate themselves verbally, the language has an enormous significance. Among other things, someone has to write Siri's jokes, but designers also need eloquence when selling their ideas.


Good design is multi-faceted

Without diversity, products cannot reach consumers. Unfortunately, there is currently a countertrend: When it comes to branding, designers - following the specifications of industrial customers - tend to focus on a few basic characteristics such as utility, beauty and, at best, humour and inspiration. However, there are many more facets that the design should take up.


Good design takes risks

Those who design innovatively expose themselves to the risk of not being understood or accepted. But this risk is worthwhile, as studies show. Breaking design and reception habits can in many cases significantly increase attention and thus sales.


Good design is for people and machines

Design today must be useful not only for users, but also for computers and other machines. Artificial intelligence is part of our daily lives and needs design support. Modern design thinks of a man-machine hybrid.