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Dieter Ram’s Principles of good design

Dieter Ram’s Principles of good design

At Dembrane, we are building a number of tools to make it as easy as possible for large groups to learn about themselves and make decisions more democratically. To guide us, we are drawing on design principles like those of legendary designer Dieter Rams that have been around for decades, but as the youtube channel Design Theory points out, some of these principles have room for an update!
This blog post is inspired by Design theory’s video and this page by interaction design foundation.
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“I always emphasised that [the principles] weren’t meant to last forever. They should be updated.” - Rams
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TP 1 radio/phono combination, 1959, by Dieter Rams for Braun

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.
Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake.

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 emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
Useful means different things to different people
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MPZ 21 multipress citrus juicer, 1972, by Dieter Rams and Jürgen Greubel for Braun
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RT 20 tischsuper radio, 1961, by Dieter Rams for Braun

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.
Beauty is subjective

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 can also be intentionally mysterious or difficult to make mastery more satisfying.
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T 1000 world receiver, 1963, by Dieter Rams for Braun
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Cylindric T 2 lighter, 1968, by Dieter Rams for Braun

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 may be obtrusive if it intents to obstruct

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 may also be fantastical - what is honesty in fiction?
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L 450 flat loudspeaker, TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder and TS 45 control unit, 1962-64, by Dieter Rams for Braun
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620 Chair Program, 1962, by Dieter Rams for Vitsœ

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 can be short lived as long as it is also regenerative.

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.
Leaving things to chance can lead to better designs. Micromanaging teams can lead to a mess. Good design, rather, is like good gardening.
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ET 66 calculator, 1987, by Dietrich Lubs for Braun
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606 Universal Shelving System, 1960, by Dieter Rams for Vitsœ

Good design is environmentally-friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
To clarify, we do not want to minimise harm (eco-efficiency) - we want to maximise the good (eco-effectiveness).

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.
Bauhaus stood for beauty born out of purpose and unhindered by mass production - not for minimal aesthetics that complicate usability, manufacturing or affordability.
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L 2 speaker, 1958, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design communicates what is necessary




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