"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

-George Bernard Shaw

10 Design Principles by Dieter Rams

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.

Industrial designer, Dieter Rams, is widely known for his “less but better” design ethos. The consumer products he designed have left us with a timeless style of unobtrusive design.

Dieter Rams headshot

In 2014, a documentary film was produced with the help of a Kickstarter campaign raising nearly $300,000. Needless to say, Dieter has built a cult following.


I came across the Dieter Rams’ design principles when I was downloading Sketch templates from the web. It’s worth the quick read!

Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

This list is based on Dieter Rams design ethos. He is widely known for championing the “less is more” concept.

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 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 product’s 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.

Dieter Rams sideways table

They are neither decorative objects nor works of art.

Dieter Rams tables

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 detail

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.

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.

FastCompany has written several posts on various occasions about Dieter Rams and his massive impact on the success of Apple products – to clarify, none of Dieter Rams work is said to be illegally copied. The impact FastCompany refers to is that of the design style Dieter Rams invented for the world over the last half century.

This pic isn’t from FastCo, but it is a nice comparison shot…

Dieter Apple comparison

Find more comparison shots and details on Dieter Rams.

If you’re getting into design or have been for a while, this topic is pretty interesting. Not because of the gossip or who did what better, but because it’s rare to find designers who are responsible for standardizing the field in such a powerful way.

There are many rising and established designers of today which makes it difficult to carve out a place for yourself in the industry. At least from the onset of a career. I only hear about, follow, and listen to the advice of a handful of designers. I curate those voices based on how many other skill sets are in their skill-stack. Graphic design or website design is not interesting to me anymore. Perhaps because it’s not innovative on its own.

I’m interested in innovation, and innovation, at least in my experience, takes place when I integrate multiple disciplines into one project in order to fill a gap, meet an unmet need, or transform a problem into an opportunity.

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Additional reading

Get a deeper look inside the mind of Dieter Rams to find out why Gizmodo calls him “the greatest living product designer”.

Dieter Rams is on Wikipedia (obvi)

Good read about Steve Jobs and Dieter Rams. It talks about how Steve Jobs was highly influenced by the many years of work and design success of Dieter Rams. Rams says Jobs, to this day, is one of the very few product designers who follow his principles.

by Daniel D'Alonzo

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