What is Good Design? Principles for a Better World
A portrait of Dieter Rams with his hand over his mouth looking off into the distance.

Design is all around us, even if we can't immediately see it. The design of buildings, roads, signs, and stores, among many other things, have an immense impact on our daily lives. Aware of his impact on the world, famed German Industrial Designer Dieter Rams asked himself a simple question: is my design good design? This led to his creation of the Ten Principles for Good Design which when released in the late 1970s, was arguably 20–30 years ahead of its time.

While Dieter focused himself on the design and production of products for the home, his principles apply holistically to all manners of design. These simple principles guide us in our quest to create "good design" and delight all those who experience it.

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.

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Top Left, to Bottom Right
TP 1 radio/phono (Braun, 1959), RT 20 tischsuper radio (Braun, 1961), ET 66 calculator (Braun, 1987), L 2 speaker (Braun, 1958)

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.


These principles can be shared accurately and fairly under the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.