Dieter Rams 10 Principles of “Good Design”

© René Spitz via flickr –

As the New Year begins, architects and designers everywhere search for the latest information in hopes to find inspiration to provide them with ample amounts of motivation. Unsure of my inspiration, I found myself reading Neither Restrospective, Nor Predictive: Dieter Rams & Design of Self on the Semantic Foundry WordPress. I was then reminded of the famous German industrial designer and his ten principles of “good design”. The straightforward list lays down key points, clearly stating what makes a good design. This information is a timeless source of inspiration that most any designer can appreciate.

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Dieter Rams Ten Principles of “Good Design”

Good Design Is Innovative : The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Good Design Makes a Product Useful : A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good Design 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.

Good Design 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.

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.

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 Long-lasting : It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Good Design 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.

Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly : Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

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.

After studying architecture at the Werkkunstschule Wiesbaden, the highly awarded and respected Dieter Rams landed a job at the architectural firm of Otto Apel (1953). Two years later, he left the firm and joined the product company Braun, where he created a legacy. Within the 40 years of working at Braun, Rams produced and oversaw over 500 innovative products as chief of design. Many of his designs are featured in museums throughout the world.

Dieter Rams, Braun coffee machine (KF 20 Aromaster), 1972; detail, design: Florian Seiffert, photo: Koichi Okuwaki

Currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), the exhibition Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams features over 200 sketches, prototypes and original products that illuminate Rams modernist approach and philosophy about the function of design. The exhibition will conclude on Feburary 20th, 2012. Click here to view more information.

Reference: Semantic Foundry, SFMOMA

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Dieter Rams 10 Principles of “Good Design”" 09 Jan 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 16 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down -49

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +18

      Sorry, your comment is neither witty, nor true. It just shows ethnic prejudice and narrow-minded stereotyping.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +11

    However German design has a hugely rich history, the start of modernist design (Walter.G and his mates) all the way through to automotive design today. That would be an interesting debate. Which country produces the “best” designers and why ?

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    The intelligent among us shouldn’t pay any attention to the idiotic comments made by people like Susan. I do believe that there is a group of countries in the world that produce the best product designs and the best industrial designers, and Germany and Italy are both on that list, in my opinion.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    “Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly” is a constraint to design and not an inherent quality of good design like the other 9 principles. Who can not only define the criteria for “Environmentally Friendly” but also determine something actually has been “Environmentally Friendly”? If this is the metric of good design, then likely most of design history has been environmentally friendly (whatever that means).

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      Agree to some degree…. I think in Dieter’s case, as an industrial designer this was a very important part of his work and philosophy. But I understand you objection. For example web design; or primarily the digital space has a highly debated impact on the environment… whereas a car, should … well you know where I’m going. Let’s just appreciate the man for the beautiful things he’s brought to our lives, and take the learning most relevant to us.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    This guy is a pretty brainy dude who knows what he is talking about so BACK OFF!! you annoying negative people.

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