It seems like an easy question, right? Contrary to popular belief, though, people don’t always know what they like. You’ve probably felt this way on more than one occasion yourself. How do you design for people who don’t even know what they like?
Dieter Rams was born in 1932 and was chief of design for Braun from 1961 – 1995. He was responsible for designing products like the SK-4 record player and the 606 Universal Shelving System by Viscoe.
Many of the items he has designed are featured in design museums around the world including MoMA in New York.
According to Rams, the ten principles for good design are that your product will be:
1. Innovative. Not innovative for innovation’s sake, but innovative hand-in-hand with innovative technology.
2. Useful. You want your product to be used. Why would you design it and include anything that would get in the way of that?
3. Aesthetic. A product should be beautiful. Your intent is that it is used often, daily even. You don’t want to affect people’s lives negatively by having them become accustomed to an ugly product.
4. Understandable. A product’s design is part of what helps its user understand how to use it. They work together.
5. Unobtrusive. A product should force itself on the user. It should be pleasing to look at, but not demand attention other than the fact that it is useful.
6. Honest. Products should look like what they are. They shouldn’t have a facade that makes them appear to be more or less than what they are meant to do.
7. Long-lasting. Quite simply, trends don’t last. Products that are trendy will soon look ridiculous and aged. Good design is ageless.
8. Detailed focused. No guessing on if the user will figure it ou. Every detail of how the product will be used is considered important.
9. Environmentally friendly. Design to use as few resources as possible. But also, does your product fit in with the environment it will be in? Is it a sign that clashes with the place it will end up?
10. Have as little design as possible. Forget the frills and excess. Design what is necessary to make a beautiful product that is easy to use. No more.
Unfortunately, the answer to the riddle of what makes a design great isn’t a simple, straightforward formula that you can apply to every design. There is no secret way of designing something that will suddenly make you a hero.
Designs works best for the context it was developed in. Good understanding of user needs, a critical insight on a problem, and a well-defined brief is important for producing the good design.
There is no justification for ugly and over styled products. In other words, you cannot polish crap.