The 10 Design Theses of Dieter Rams

Published on March 25, 2008 (↻ August 24, 2023), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

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:

  1. Good design is innovative.
  2. Good design makes a product useful.
  3. Good design is aesthetic.
  4. Good design makes a product understandable.
  5. Good design is unobtrusive.
  6. Good design is honest.
  7. Good design has longevity.
  8. Good design is consequent down to the last detail.
  9. Good design is environmentally friendly.
  10. 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 on 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.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!

Comments (Closed)

  1. 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.