What is "Good" Design? A quick look at Dieter Rams' Ten Principles.

What does "good" design look like and are there any instructions on how to create it? Dieter Rams, legendary industrial designer, who's "less but better" approach inspired a generation of products, is famed for writing the Ten Principles of Good design.

Dieter Rams in Review

  • 1932
    Dieter Rams was born in Wiesbaden Germany in 1932. He was strongly influenced by his grandfather who was a carpenter. Prompted by his friend he applied for a job at the german electrical products company Braun in 1955.
  • 500
    During his 40 years at Braun, Dieter Rams produced and oversaw 500 innovative products as chief of design.
  • Eco Friendly
    Dieter Rams is famously one of the first designers who strived to be environmentally friendly before it was popular. He believed "design can and must maintain its contribution towards protecting and sustaining the environment."

What's the story?

In the late 1970s, Dieter Rams was becoming increasingly interested in the world of things that surrounded him – β€œan impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” As a designer, Rams was aware that he played an important role in the world he was helping create, he asked himself an important question: is my design good design?

Good design is subjective and can't necessarily be measured. However Rams attempted to express what he believed to be the most important principles for design.

Here is a brief overview:

  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 is long-lasting
  8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
  9. Good design is environmentally-friendly
  10. Good design is as little design as possible

These principles have become iconic and have inspired designers across the world.

What can I do?

DISCUSS: Can you think of any designs that don't fit Rams' rules? Are they good or bad?

RESEARCH: Find 3 pieces of design that fulfil Rams' 10 Principles. What do you think of them?

DO: Write your own principles for design! Create your own list of what you think makes design good.

Dieter Rams has influenced many designers and creators around the world. Can you think of the most famous creative company that Rams has heavily influenced?


Apple's love of sleek and simple design reflects how they were inspired by the work Rams was doing Braun as a product designer. Many critics have exclaimed that Apple was copying Rams. Rams however believed "it's a compliment that they use the [same] basic thinking about what design can be". Rams has been equally fond of Apples's work and regards them as one of the "few companies that take design seriously".

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