Dieter Rams’ ten principles for good design

Born in Germany in 1932, Dieter Rams is associated with the functionalist school of industrial design. Recognized for his minimalist simplicity, he is known for the design ethic that drove the success of Braun consumer products, and the Vitsœ furniture company.

Many notice the striking ways in which his design ethic informed that of Apple’s.

In the 1970s he became increasingly concerned that the world of industrial design was devolving into a visual environment composed of “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” Recognizing that he was a major contributor to this environment, he stopped to articulate how he defined “good” design. His answer has become a manifesto for conscientious designers ever since.

Ten principles for 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 emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst 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 we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good design makes a product understandable.

It clarifies the products structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. 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 users self-expression.

Dieter Rams’ T3 transistor radio, alongside Apple’s first iPod (via


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 todays 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.

“Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design”  – Dieter Rams

Produced for his forthcoming documentary RAMS about the design legend, director Gary Hustwit has produced a limited-edition, letterpress print of the principles, designed by Build. You can order a print here, and watch the teasers for the film here.

The images in the header are reproduced from stills of the film.

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