How to Create Good Design

By Vince Matthews

It was Leonardo da Vinci who once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” It’s a philosophy that Steve Jobs also held close to his heart and has been carried on at Apple by designer Jony Ive.

Both Jobs’ and Ive’s design values were strongly influenced by another designer, Dieter Rams. Rams is a German industrial designer who is probably best known for his work at Braun, where he and his staff helped make Braun a household name in the 1950s and 60s.

Dieter Rams was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Medal at the London Design Festival in 2013.

Rams’ approach to design is simplified: “Weniger, aber besser,” which means, “Less, but better.” Rams even devised a set of rules to answer the basic question: Is my design good? Rams answered his own questions with the principles outlined below, which are now universally embraced as the Ten Principles of Good Design.

Ten Principles of Good Design

  1. It’s innovative – As technology evolves, so does design and Rams believes they do so in tandem. Technology always offers new opportunities for original design.
  2. Makes a product useful – Products are produced and purchased to be used. The design of that product should not only be functional but look good and work intuitively. Design should not detract from the product.
  3. Is aesthetic – Products affect people and their lives, so the look of a product is integral to the usefulness of it. As Rams put it, “Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.”
  4. Makes a product understandable – Good design makes a product easier to use.
  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 – Good design is straightforward: It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. Be honest with the consumer.
  7. Is evergreen – Good design is long-lasting. Unlike fashionable design, good design lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
  8. Is thorough and detailed – Care and accuracy in the design process show respect toward 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 life cycle 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.

Designing the Future
Apple’s own Jony Ive has taken many cues from Dieter Rams, and why not? As the old saying goes, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” As evident in the clean and uncomplicated look of Apple’s hardware, that same philosophy extends to its software as well.

Compare the Apple product with the Braun product. A theme emerges: Clean, uncomplicated design.

Good designers not only have an eye for good design, but they can also see how the design process affects other things – like how those designs are used and flow with existing elements.

Designing anything can be challenging, and it doesn’t matter if you want to be a 3D video game designer and experience the game design process, learn how to create and design web pages, industrial design or learn how to use a 3D printer to make a new invention, the principles of good design are applicable to any design process.

If you’re new to design but want to learn more, learning graphic design might be a good place to start. Digital Media Academy can help you take your design career or skills to new heights.