I finally understand this quote from Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” It explains the heart of design. Because design is not the easy process of adding more features. It is the hard process of taking away until nothing else can be taken away. It’s the process of making the complex, simple. Simplicity and design are cousins.
Design is at the heart of every product. But, good design is not about design. It’s about function. It is the function wrapped up in a little package. Only the package is invisible. And the function is obvious. It’s in the details of product design. The ones that don’t intrude. But rather blend in. Details make good design.
I thought Dieter Rams’ 10 principles of good design was a good place to start my learning.
The principles as well as the accompanying text are from Vitsoe.
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.
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 emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 user.
Good design is environmentally-friendly
Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
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.
Dieter Rams has created many masterpieces for Braun.
He designed over 500 products in total during his life! (he’s still alive)
Personally, I like his universal shelving system for Vitsoe the best. The simplicity is astounding.
His opinions are very thought provoking.
Reminds me of when I read Biocentrism. Very controversial book. But made me view the world through a different lens.
He also disliked the use of “stark” colors for kitchen appliances. He said it was too dominating. And that design should not dominate things. Or people for that matter. It should only help people.
As I try to think like him and view the world through his ideology, the world of design today is really a terrible place. Each individual product is constantly fighting for our attention. It’s for this reason that Apple’s computers are all chrome. They are too big to be colorful. They would dominate easily. But iPods are a variety of colors. They are too small to dominate. All of these factors must be taken into account for great design.
Looking at my room, I can understand why he hates the American way of styling. The design of many dominating objects try to emphasize it and make it more noticeable in some way. People are more comfortable with objects that they can dominate. We like products we have complete control over. Not just in a literal sense, but figuratively as well. We prefer simplicity over complexity. It’s just human nature.
Continuing on with learning design…
Checked the local library for Dieter Rams’ book: As Little Design as Possible. Nothing. Checked for any design books. Still nothing. But I did find 15 books on knitting…
Ended up ordering 3 books from another branch: (but still no Dieter Rams, may just end up purchasing this one)
- “The Design of Everyday Things” ~ Don Norman
- “Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop” ~ Neil Gershenfeld
- “The Art of Innovation: lessons in creativity from IDEO” ~ Tom Kelley
They’re still in transit. But I’ll do a comprehensive review of each one like before.
Learned a lot from Dieter Rams so far. Still have a long way to go with learning design. ~ Imtiaz Majeed