Design Less, But Better: Dieter Rams Design Principles

“My goal is to omit everything superfluous so that the essential is shown to the best possible advantage”. Dieter Rams, 1980.

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer, who is associated with the company Braun as well as Functionalist school of industrial design. Rams is educated in architecture and once explained his design approach as “less, but better”.  Many of his product designs can be found at the MoMA in New York, including coffee makers, calculators, radios, audio/visual equipment, consumer appliances and office products.

In the 1970s, Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development in design.  He often felt that designers needed to take more responsibility for the state of the world around us and think more about sustainability.

His 10 principles of design were relevant them and it still relevant today:

  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 the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.
  5. 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.
  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 towards 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 life cycle 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.  Back to purity, back to simplicity.