Ten commandments of good design

Earlier this year myself and Pierre had the privilege of working with the students of the Design Time School in Observatory on a rug project. Each student had to design and manufacture a rug that is not only functional but also sensitive to the environment. We were amazed by what the students had come up with. (Be sure to keep an eye on our blog next year for more information on this.)


All the students’ hard work were just recently exhibited at their year-end function at the Baxter Theater. Pierre was the guest speaker for the event and touched on, amongst others, the need for industry to work closely with students, a creative bunch, particularly in times like our present economic environment.

“Innovation in product design is of the utmost importance in times when retail is down. There is a definite need for dialogue and a very close relationship between industry and educational houses,” says Pierre. “Students provide innovative ideas whilst industry provides street knowledge and direct market feedback.”

Pierre referred to the ten commandments of good design by Dieter Rams, a German industrial designer which I would like to share with you:

1. Good design is innovative. It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty just for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all of a product’s functions. Current technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.

2. Good design makes a product useful. The product is bought or used in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose – in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimize the utility of a product’s usability.

3. Good design is aesthetic. The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

4. Good design helps us to understand product. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self explanatory.

5. 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.

6. Good design is honest. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

7. Good design has longevity. It does not follow trends that become outdated after a short time. Well designed products differ significantly from short-lived trivial products in today’s throwaway society.

8. Good design is consequent to the last detail. Nothing must be arbitrary. Thoroughness and accuracy in the design process shows respect toward the user.

9. Good design is concerned with the environment. Design must make contributions toward a stable environment and sensible raw material situation. This does not only include actual pollution, but also visual pollution and destruction of our environment.

10. Good design is as little design as possible. Less is better, because it concentrates on the essential aspects and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.