Good Design Is…

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2013 at 11:02 am

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Confession: I don’t think I’m a great designer. I’m certainly not high-brow and into what I consider the minutiae of design. I feel like I’m more practical minded; Let’s decide what to do and do it – In and out, job done well; move on to the next thing.

So, in an attempt to grow in myself an appreciation for the finer points of design, I signed up for the HackDesign series of lessons. I was a little jazzed about it. I’m gonna be learning all this cool, new stuff and maybe I’ll have to buy a beret *and* a pack of clove cigarettes to go with a lot of black turtlenecks.

A *lot* of black turtlenecks. Yeah, I’m on my way…

So, I get the first lesson and, dang it, the assignment is to watch a movie about design.

God, someone shoot me now.

But, ok… I signed up for this and I can’t punk out right at the first assignment, so I wake up Saturday morning and fire up Netflix to watch Objectified.

Holy crap. It was good.

Here’s all these designers talking about their process and what good design is and isn’t. More than that, you could see in their eyes that this was something that they cared deeply about.

One of the people they interviewed was Dieter Rams, who was responsible for every cool thing you ever lusted after at Braun and indirectly responsible for the look that has come to define Apple in recent years since Sir Ives owes a lot of his inspiration to 50’s & 60’s Braun products.

I took notes. Lots of notes and maybe I’ll share those in the future, but for now here’s Deiter Rams 10 principals and they go something like this:

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.
  • 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.
  • Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
  • Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 consumer.
  • 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.
  • 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.

(Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieter_Rams#Rams.27_ten_principles_of_.22good_design.22 )