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10 Timeless Commandments for Good Design: Part I

Photo of Dieter Rams on Glynndevins

Why Creatives Should Never Forget Dieter Rams’ Commandments

Dieter Rams is reveled as one of the most influential industrial designers of the 20th century, and his style is known to many around the globe. Many of you may already know these guiding principles introduced by Rams as the 10 commandments used to inspire their design work around the globe, but they stand for something far more than just a framework for good design. Frankly, they are the basis for creating long-lasting solutions for problems that are experienced by people like you and I.
“A designer who wants to achieve good design must not regard himself as an artist who, according to taste and aesthetics, is merely dressing-up products with a last minute garment.”
― Dieter Rams
Although Dieter Rams 10 principles of good design have been explained in great detail over the years, understanding their prevalence as we more quickly than ever begin to live in the future is fundamental to a better designed future.
1. Good Design is Innovative

Photo of Dieter Rams by RAMS: A Documentary…

Not only is good design innovative, but it also relies heavily on the advancement of technology in order to continue producing creative solutions that are truly innovative. Technology will always strive for advancement proving innovation day in and day out. Although technology may prove innovative on its own, it is through design that these innovative technologies are given the ability to meet the needs of people all around the world in ways we could have never imagined. Advancement in technology will never cease to amaze our most wildest dreams and it is in tandem that both technology and design innovate in order to make products usable, beautiful, and purposeful.
“ We designers, we don’t work in a vacuum. We need business people. We are not the fine artists we are often confused with.”
― Dieter Rams
Technology and design are not only a team working together, but one that relies heavily on each other to produce mind blowing products and services that people have come to rely on throughout their lives. As technology and the ways in which products are produced continue advancing exponentially, innovation in these areas has come to be expected by users everywhere. This not only makes innovation in design possible but necessary both now and in the years to come.
2. Good Design Makes a Product Useful

Image credit: Unsplash

The job of a designer spans far more than what people may think when taking a peek into our lives. Upon taking their first look, most aren’t too sure what exactly to make of it and there’s nothing wrong with that. The best way to think of a designer is to imagine a person that is obsessed with finding the beauty that exists among the chaos that is our world around us. Design is not only about making something aesthetically pleasing, but going beyond that and ensuring products have a true purpose of being crafted in the first place.
“ One of the most significant design principles is to omit the unimportant in order to emphasize the important.”
― Dieter Rams
Dieter Rams believed that above all else, design is primed by defining products that are useful to the people who buy them. Things are typically bought in order to be used in some sort of way and Rams knew and executed this in his work. A product has to satisfy certain criteria, not only by having a purpose, but also demonstrating psychological and aesthetic appeal as well. Not only was Rams right about making products that have purpose, but it is also necessary for them to be usable as well. This gives way to the growing need for user experience designers to ensure this is done thoroughly with refined strategy.

3. Good Design is Aesthetic

Image credit: Unsplash

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This statement couldn’t be more true when it comes to the quality of good design. The aesthetics behind every design may not be the single most important aspect of a well executed design, but in the end can definitely make or break a product. The reason this is so important to design is because people use products daily throughout their lives and the way we interact with these products directly impacts our emotions and our state of well-being. Only designs that are greatly executed have the chance of truly being beautiful and a shot at bringing change about in the world.
“ Having small touches of colour makes it more colourful than having the whole thing in colour.”
― Dieter Rams
Although it is true that the beauty of a product isn’t the main focus of the designer, it is an integral part for sure. A product can be useful, yet beauty attracts people that want to use it and are happy while using it. In addition to usability, beauty too is key to crafting something that not only has a purpose, but motivates people to use it and integrate that product into their daily lives. Another thing to remember is that a product cannot be useful unless it too expresses beauty.

4. Good Design Makes a Product Understandable

Image credit: Unsplash

Whether we realize it or not, we interact with a multitude of products on a regular basis. Using these products has streamlined our lives and a lot of us wouldn’t know how much our lives would change if we were to get rid of them. Having the ability to understand a product is highly important in regards to generating an exceptional design. Not only does it make clear what the product does, but it stands to define the organization that created it. As Rams explains, “it clarifies the products structure.” I’m sure many of us can think of countless products that left us frustrated, aggravated, and even sobbing the end of attempting to use it. The reason being that we had no idea how this product was suppose to be used.
“ People react positively when things are clear and understandable.”
― Dieter Rams
As artificial intelligence gains momentum and becomes an integral part of society, not only does this make things a little easier because products today can speak for themselves, but it too creates challenges in itself. It opens a Pandora’s Box because what do we do when things go awry? As technology advances and products begin having the capability to think for themselves, this only proves how important it is to design in order to ensure a sense of understanding governing a products functionality and capability is driven throughout its design process.

5. Good Design is Unobtrusive

Image credit: Unsplash

It is highly important to remember as we near a future compiled of products that are increasingly sophisticated and complicated when learning to ask yourself what exactly is involved in order to bring that product to life. When thinking of creating products for people, designers have to keep in mind that individuals express themselves in different ways. Products should take the most basic form in order to allow users to exercise their own preferences and self-expression. After all, products are like tools that help us to better ourselves and the lives we live. In good design, never over complicate what could otherwise be simple.
“ Design should not dominate things, should not dominate people. It should help people. That’s its role.”
― Dieter Rams
By designing with simplicity in mind, not only does the design become more convenient for users to have and utilize, but typically makes more aesthetic design decisions when bringing it all together. Who wants to use something that is best described as obtrusive? Simply put, good design should be intuitive and simple enough that the product brings a smile to someone who appreciates it. Avoid any negative associations within your products as much as possible.


Not only has Dieter Rams left a tremendous impact on the way design is practiced, but he truly is an inspiration to all those whose dreams are filled with one day becoming a designer. These commandments are by no means a crash course on how to make good designs, rather it is more of a framework to keep in mind as you think of what ideas to motivate and incorporate into each of your projects.
“My heart belongs to the details. I actually always found them to be more important than the big picture. Nothing works without details. They are everything, the baseline of quality.”
― Dieter Rams
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