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Dieter Rams: Ten Principles For Good Design (inkl. Video)

Dieter Rams is one of the most influential German product designers of recent years. He is not only considered to be the “Aufräumer der Nation”, many of his designs for Braun are legendary - and his ten theses on good design (1993) are more topical today than ever. 

As early as the mid-1970s, Dieter Rams and his team began to think about design philosophies and “good design”. Rams wrote the essence - simplicity, honesty and timelessness - of his thoughts together in his “ten principles for good design”. Even today, many of his maxims such as “Good design is as little design as possible” can still be found in countless of his designs for companies such as Braun or Vitsoe.

The principles for good design as an answer to the question of what good design is

“I believe that future generations will shudder, in view of the thoughtlessness with which we stuff our houses, our cities and landscapes with all kinds of rubbish”, Dieter Rams was sure as early as 1976. With his answer to the question “Is my design good design”, Rams has provided ten theses that are supposed to prevent “an inscrutable confusion of forms, colors and noises”:


Good design is innovative

The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.


Good design makes a product useful

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.


Good design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.


Good design makes a product understandable

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.


Good design 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.


Good design is honest

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.


Good design 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.


Good design 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 user.


Good design 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.


Good design 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.