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Dieter Rams’ 8 Principles of good design

Some designers don’t for people. They design solutions to their own problems (i.e. I want to make attractive things, I want to finish this project etc).

Good design is the intersection of function, structure, and aesthetics. A design needs to, foremost, serve its main function in an easy to understand manner. Its structure should be sufficient to handle its task without being damaged or failing. Aesthetically it must be pleasing, not only in how it looks, but also how it feels to use.


“Design is really an act of communication, which means having a deep understanding of the person with whom the designer is communicating.”

Don Norman – The Design of Everyday Things

When Don Norman said this, he was referring to kettles, microwaves, and doors. The beauty of design is that its basic principles are the foundation for all media. Furniture, websites, and skyscrapers can all find their roots in these 9 principles.

“Good design, when done well, should be invisible”

Jared Spool

1.    Good Design Is Innovative

Design needs to push the envelope of the human experience. If we create using only tried and trusted methodologies, we risk stagnation. An innovative design is more likely to stand out in the user’s mind if it is innovative and different. However, it should stand out for the right reasons, and not because it was absolutely horrendous.

2.    Good Design Makes A Product Useful

Beyond the function of a product, well-designed products play a role in our identities, self-perceptions, and the psychological natures of things. For example, people often buy expensive cars to portray themselves as wealthy. They define their self-image through their possessions. It seems shallow but we do it continuously. People with Macs report feeling more creative. Good design creates ripples beyond the product.

3.    Good Design Is Aesthetically Pleasing

Aesthetics is subjective. Some may see beauty where others see clutter. Apple created the iPhone which many people adored, whilst others saw it as an unimaginative rectangle. The aesthetics of a design needs to align with your target audience more than a hard-and-fast rule.

4.    Good Design Makes The Product Understandable

Think the big and small hole in a pair of scissors. Without anyone explaining a thing to you, you’re able to fit your hand perfectly into the handle and begin using them. That’s an example of pure design, which uses design to explain everything about the product.

5.    Good Design Is Unobtrusive

“Simplicity is not the absence of clutter…simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product.”

Jony Ive – Former Chief Design Officer of Apple Inc.

6.    Good Design Is Honest

Honesty is the best policy. I have not met a single person who enjoys the fake pockets on their clothing. A design should not lie to the user about what it can do. Good design shows you exactly what the object does and nothing more. It doesn’t imply features, quality or longevity it can’t deliver on.

7.    Good Design Is Long Lasting

Fast design and fast fashion have their place in an ever-changing world, however, good design withstands trends, fading taste, and short attention spans. It’s like blog content; you want it to be evergreen — which lasts for years and years because it covers universal topics that are always relevant.

8.    Good Design Is As Little Design As Possible

Less is more illustration

A much as design has these rules, it should not stifle one’s creativity. Recognize, as you go through your life, the little problems that come up and how you naturally design solutions to them; and how they vary in efficacy.

Once you’re aware of that, the design principles will suddenly all make sense and you’ll find yourself creating more effective, resource-efficient, and beautiful solutions that will ripple to the world around you, and make things better for everyone.