While traveling in San Francisco last week, I had the opportunity to visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I love art, especially modern art, and always find inspiration when visiting any art museum.
During this visit, I was particularly drawn to the Dieter Rams “Less and More” exhibit. I was not overly familiar with Dieter Rams, but I have certainly been inspired by his design concepts and creations.
Dieter Rams is one of the most influential industrial designers of our time and a strong advocate for the “less but better” design concept. Rams was also the lead designer for the German household appliance company Braun.
I love simple objects that are functional and beautiful. I guess that’s why I was so impressed by the Rams exhibit. The room was filled with his beautiful designs of cameras, coffeemakers and other products. In an adjacent room, Rams’ Ten Principles for Good Design were printed on the wall. A glass case displayed products inspired by the principles, including several Apple products.
Following are the 10 principles, as printed on the wall at SFMOMA:
- 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 emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possible 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. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
- Good design makes products understandable. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.
- 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 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 in order to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
- 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 toward the consumer.
- Good design is environmentally friendly. Design makes an important contributions to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the life cycle of the product.
- Good design is as little as possible. Less but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with inessentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity!
Yup. I think that pretty much sums up the definition of good design. I think we can all be inspired by this definition, whether we are writers, designers or consumers.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art