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What is 'Good Design'?


BA (Hons) International Product Design Dissertation Project (2013):

A contextual comparison of Dieter Rams's Ten Principles for Good Design

My dissertation research investigated the context in which Rams offered his Ten Principles for Good Design andoffered a contemporary comparative assessment and design response.

What is good design? Being environmentally friendly? Adding a “go-faster stripe”? Or is good design simply, simplicity? World-renowned designer, Dieter Rams, offered a response to the question of good design in the 1980’s in the Ten Principles for Good Design. These principles have been held by key industry and education figures as a benchmark for what is good design for approximately thirty years. However, in the twenty-first century, in an era defined by both mass-production and bespoke craft, by material and technological innovation, reproduction, as well as issues surrounding the diminishing of key environmental resources, do these principles still represent what Good Design is today?

1. Good design is innovative
2. Good design makes a product useful
3. Good design is aesthetic
4. Good design makes a product understandable
5. Good design is honest
6. Good design is unobtrusive
7. Good design is long-lasting
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
9. Good design is environmentally friendly
10. Good design is as little design as possible 

(Rams, 1987)

These principles were weighed against the winning attributes of products chosen by three international design awards; Design Museum Designs of the Year, the iF Design Awards and the red dot Awards: Product Design and the design values of leading, contemporary, designers such as Terry Marks and Matthew Porter; James L. Adams; Robert Brunner and Stewart Emery; and Thomas Lockwood.

The contextual comparison resulted in the discovery of a set of principals which can be understood to capture the ethos of what is perceived to be good design today. The “Contemporary Qualities for Good Design” stipulate that a well designed product should have the following...

Environmentally Friendly
Considered Branding

Subsequently, the “Contemporary Qualities for Good Design” were used to guide a design response. The response was a coffee percolator which aimed to stay true to these qualities.