What is great design?

To follow the topic on design of the previous post, here’s something from Paper magazine’s April 2010 issue that we’d like to share with you guys. An excerpt from The Style of Now, the title of the essay by Kim Hastreiter in her column Note of Kim, it’s something that should come in handy to us designers as we go about our work, whether as a form of reminder or inspiration. In the essay, Hastreiter talks about industrial designer Dieter Rams (the designer of the Braun calculator and the square-shaped alarm clock, to name a few)’s idea of design. She quotes Rams, “Good design avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashion design, it lasts many years—even in today’s throwaway society.”

Hastreiter expounds more on the topic of course; to read what she has to say, get a copy of Paper’s April 2010 issue, or check out their website to see if they have it online. But for now, the part we want to share, which is actually more of the sidebar they featured than an excerpt of the essay itself:

Dieter Rams’s Ten Principles of Design
(Russnino’s note: these refer mainly to product design, bearing in mind the Rams is an industrial designer. Nonetheless, it gives us insight as to what graphic designers too can do to put that iconic stamp on their work.)

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Good design makes a product understandable: It clarifies a product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it’s self-explanatory.

5. Good design is unobstrusive: 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. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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 toward the consumer.

9. 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.

10. 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. Taken from Paper magazine, April 2010 issue, Note From Kim column by Kim Hastreiter, pp. 78-79

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