The above utterance of Dieter Rams best sums up his approach. He was the Chief Design Officer at Braun, the German consumer products group, from 1961 until 1995. His aesthetic and influence can be seen today in Apple products. As for his philosophy he outlined ten for good design, these included:
- “Good design makes a useful product”. It emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.
- “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 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 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.
These principles could just as easily apply to writers as to consumer products. We should chop away at our text, images and data until only the true original essence is left. The ideas should be easily understood – no jargon. And it should be clearly useful to readers, not just to the writer. The principles could also apply to organisations. It’s easy to add new products, services, and processes, but before you know it, costs and complexity have spiralled out of control. But with Dieter Rams principles a philosophy could be applied to strip back organisations to their essence.
The remaining principles for good design were that it has to be innovative, aesthetic,unobtrusive, long-lasting, thorough down to the last detail, and environmentally friendly. The full details of each can be found here. (The image above is the Braun SK2 Radio from 1957)