Ask a Designer: Dieter Rams' 10 principles of good design

Ask a Designer: Dieter Rams' 10 principles of good design

July 12, 2019 6 By Bernardo Ryan



Clear lines, understated color, functionality. Whether a record player, pocket calulator
or alarm clock, products made by the Braun company in the 1950s and '60s are instantly
recognizable. They were all designed by Dieter Rams. Now Cees de Jong from the Netherlands has
published a new coffee-table book devoted to him and his ten principles for good design. Number one: Good design is innovative. Number two: Good design makes a product useful. Number three: Good design is aesthetic. "After Bauhaus you got this idea to keep it
simple. These people were looking for the essence
of design: how you have to make products, how you make graphic design. If you take all this in mind, it’s astonishing
that you can find a designer – who is a fantastic designer – like Rams, but he can
think too very well and he can write it down. He made his principles and it’s an eye-opener
for lots of people. And that’s fantastic." The fourth principle: Good design makes a
product understandable. Number five: Good design is unobtrusive. Number six: Good design is honest. Design professor Klaus Klemp has created a room at the museum of applied art in Frankfurt in honor of Dieter Rams with
his Universal Shelving System 606, and other classics. Rams' transformed the
world's living rooms. "Until that point, people had record players
that were incorporated into pieces of furniture. They were hidden away in cabinets. The SK4 was the first piece of music equipment
that openly displayed its technology, which was very tidy and aesthetic, and was certainly
a trailblazer for all the later electronic equipment in living rooms or elsewhere in
homes." Dieter Rams began working at the electric
appliance manufacturer Braun in the mid-1950s. He quickly found success with his first designs. Soon after he was heading the design team. The SK 4 record player from 1956 became an
instant classic. Rams created a new design language, and not
just for his clients, Braun and the furniture maker Vitsoe. Decades later, designers from Apple invoked
Rams's aesthetic. These days the 85-year-old lives near Frankfurt. And he's designed everything here: the building,
the garden, the furniture, and the appliances. He rarely grants interviews, insisting that
he's already said everything there is to say. Rams has never been at a loss for pointed
statements about design. "For me, good design is most of all design
that isn't insincere, design that's honest. Sensational things are hideous. For me, the quiet arrangement of things has
always been something fundamental." Principle seven: Good design is long-lasting. Number eight: Good design is thorough down
to the last detail. Number nine: Good design is environmentally
friendly. Design has never been an end in itself for
Dieter Rams, who has always kept the big picture in mind. He's never been able to relate to the modern
age's throwaway society. "I think he is an exceptional figure. Not just because of his own designs, which
of course played a huge role, especially in the 1960s, when he created totally new devices
– but also his emphasis on the community as a whole: being interested in society, an early
interest in ecology. And his interest in making objects that don't
look out of date quickly, so they don't get cast aside. I think he's still a role model." With this book, Cees de Jong has created a
lasting memorial to Dieter Rams's design principles. His tenth, and last, principle sums up his
core beliefs: Good design is as little design as possible. Less true is more.