Wednesday Open Thread: March 13 - 10 Principles of Good Design
It's Day 72 of the Year 2019 CE (Gregorian), meaning that it's March 13, 2019
I stumbled across Dieter Rams' "10 Principles of Good Design" and after arduously copying them down, discovered that they are neatly listed in the Wikipedia article on him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dieter_Rams
OK, so I just pasted them below, but, rather than excerpt the interpretive detail, I have simply highighted the parts that I intended to excerpt. They start with the phrase "Good design ..."
1. is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
2. makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
3. is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
4. makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
5. 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. is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
7. 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.
8. is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
9. is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
10. 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.
This guy is highly regarded, respected and even revered. I figured that these would good to know and analyze and even discuss, because design is everywhere and in everything, design or its equivalents, at any rate. Then I took a look at them, jeez, when was this guy? It says the seventies, so, OK, but, really? Then I hit upon an insidious and sinister idea to be discussed later, if you'll bear with me.
Good design is innovative, but in tandem with improving technology and never as an end in itself. Really Apple? Hey, let's talk about the US auto industry, heh. That kicks planned obsolescence right in the teeth, does it not? Much of our current physical culture seems to fail this test. Everybody has to produce their own variant, slightly different from all the others, from radios to pain killers and erectile dysfunction medications. Brand differentiation is a thing, a very real thing, and it mostly violates this principle.
Good design makes a thing useful and skips the unnecessary and non-productive/non-purposive. Uh huh. "Our new safety razor cartridge has 13 blades and 3 teflon pads" (and somehow still works in spite of itself.)
Good design is aesthetic. Well, I'm not fully qualified to discuss this, but I became increasingly bothered and disturbed since the early sixties with what I called the uglification of things and our surroundings. Aesthetic pollution was one of my terms for it, beating us down and numbing the mind and senses like concrete blocks tied to our feet. Nonetheless, it cannot be defined, this is deep into "I know it when I see it" territory which I find intellectually disturbing, but that's my personal kink. For the record: Only well-executed objects can be beautiful. does not imply that well executed objects necessarily will be beautiful, that is a different argument.
Good design makes a product understandable? Microsoft? Windows? Guis? The first time I ran into a gui I was baffled, what do all those leetle biddy cartoons stand for, what do they do, where's the system prompt? Today, nothing has a manual, just a piece of paper full of cartoons, even mechanical contrivances; plus one needs a cheat sheet to open the damn box it comes in. Total cultural and societal fail, IMHO.
Good design is unobtrusive. OK, that's maybe why we so seldom see it. Heh. I turn on my phone and a disembodied voice asks how it can help me, while everything I own throws ads at me 24-7. OK google, STFU. Obtrusive to the nth power, sheesh.
Good design is honest. This man obviously never heard of packaging engineers, advertising or marketing.
Good design is long lasting. Fine with me, as long as it is biodegradable, recycleable, or re-usable once it finally does fail. It avoids being fashionable and There It Is, everything today is about being fashionable, not just clothes and not merely enough for brand identification, our material lives revolve around fashion(s) and brands.
Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Well, the package is, at any rate, but I do like it when they include extra screws and bolts, or waive the assembly fee.
Good design is environmentally friendly and, dig it, minimizes physical and visual pollution. Wow.
Good design is as little design as possible, focusing n the essentials and omitting the gloss. Not necessarily minimalist or plain, but skipping the afunctional.
OK so our material culture is, among other things, too material. We have way too much stuff and turn it over way too often.(fashion) It is burying us and destroying the planetwide ecosystem. A lot of it is somewhat inutile, somewhat pointless, etc. If you look around, inside and out, at any level, any scale, from the cityscape to the neighborhood to your desk there is all that stuff and it is all impacting you. And honestly, how much of it is or was "good design"? They're now rolling out "the internet of things" which is mostly the internet of shit because it's mostly crap that would be lucky to meet three of those tests, ignoring the fact that a lot of it is otiose. I don't need a fridge that tracks my eggs, I can count to twelve. (Idle, digressive thought, could Alexa and the Google voice be tricked into talking to each other? OK, forget that)
What if we all decided not to buy crap? What if we all started rejecting things which didn't meet all or nearly all of those criteria. They depend upon us to be the market for their stuff, and then spend their money on marketing instead of good design and quality workmanship. What if we just refused to buy any more crap and demanded good stuff, and, of course, eschewed the pressures to stay "up-to-date", "au courant", "in fashion" and/or "with it". We'd all save bread in the long run and I suspect we'd see a significant decline in waste, trash, litter and pollution, especially the aesthetic kind. So, modest suggestion, each time you need or wish to acquire o replace something, ask yourself if the prospective thing qualifies as good design and take a pass on it if it doesn't. I bet we'll be better off it we all do so.
Image is Alan Levine's "Design is In the Air" public domain
Its an open thread so have at it. The floor is yours