The 10 Design Theses of Dieter Rams
Post from March 25, 2008 (↻ May 31, 2022), filed under Art and Design.
Moving up industrial design on my agenda and studying the work of German top designer Dieter Rams (who was responsible for the great design of Braun products for about 30 years), I deemed it useful to republish his design theses:
- Good design is innovative.
- Good design makes a product useful.
- Good design is aesthetic.
- Good design makes a product understandable.
- Good design is unobtrusive.
- Good design is honest.
- Good design has longevity.
- Good design is consequent down to the last detail.
- Good design is environmentally friendly.
- Good design is as little design as possible.
I really like these “commandments,” as they’re sometimes referred to. They might remind of Edward Tufte’s work concerning information design and “data honesty,” they might also—hi, grandiosity—remind of my own definition of design, that good design needs to be durable, and that our industry suffers from bad design since we’re often dealing with decoration instead.
Design history and research of good design confirm that great designers rarely just ornament but focus on usefulness and usability. And making a product useful and usable never meant that it shouldn’t be appealing. This still is, and will always be, one of the key lessons up-and-coming designers need to learn. Which includes our industry with their web and application designers.
I’m Jens Oliver Meiert, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for Google, I’m close to the W3C and the WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly. Other than that, I love trying things, sometimes including philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.
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On March 25, 2008, 21:27 CET, Lynne said:
“elegant, legible, yet rigorous visual language” - This is such a powerful statement at the heart of Dieter Rams that more often than not completely missed by most. His philosophy for good design is undeniably the core at which every one in our field does (or should) try to drill down to regardless of the amount of time it take (which can take a while). It is amazing when you look at our field in this manner how broad we truly start before we start to even touch on these design values that if achieved will bring undeniable success. I knew of these “commandments” before they were posted here but I never took the time to understand where they came from really. In any case these 10 “good design” standards should be ingrained in every designer in any application on platform.
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Perhaps my most comprehensive book: The Web Development Glossary (2020). With explanations and definitions for literally thousands of terms from Web Development and related fields, building on Wikipedia as well as the MDN Web Docs. Available at Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Leanpub.