Good design

What Is Good Design?

As someone who’s deeply inspired and motivated by all kinds of different styles and visuals, it took me a while to find my personal style. Back when I was in college, I wondered why we had to read and write so much. Out of so many authors, I couldn’t relate to any line of thought. Maybe I wasn’t open to it. Five years later, I acknowledge that design is way more philosophical than people might think, because it comes down to what values you’re moved by.

As a designer, I can directly or indirectly express my views, opinions, culture and background. Being a minimalist, for instance, is reflected in my work. I may be more or less opinionated, depending on what briefing I’m trying to respond to, but I believe most times my personal values can be found on my designs.

Designing Beyond Taste

The truth is taste is incredibly relative and personal and trends come and go, but there are also reasonable facts to why things look better or worse the way they do. Or why elements are redundant, visually constrained, unbalanced and so on.

Having found my design philosophy is largely due to Dieter Rams and his timeless principles of what good design can be. Regardless of what design field we’re talking about (product, graphic, or interior design), these commandments seem to align perfectly with my personal values and they’re incredibly valid today.

1. Innovation.

The First Pantsuit by Yves Saint Laurent, 1967

“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.”

2. Usefulness.

Muji toaster by Naoto Fukasawa

“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.”

3. Aesthetic.

Tiffany & Co. Identity by Pentagram

“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.”

4. Understandability.

iPod Classic by Apple

“It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.”

5. Unobtrusiveness.

Wayfinding and signage design for Harrods by Pentagram

“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. Honesty.

Arrival Bus, a human-centred and intelligent design that rethinks public transportation

“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.”

7. Long-lastingness.

Chanel Flap Bag, a timeless long-lasting item

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

8. Thoroughness.

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

9. Environmentally-friendly.

Fleece Jacket by Patagonia, a brand known for its environmental activism

“Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.”

10. As little design as possible.

Fulham Shearling Sofa

“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.”

As you can see, good design can be done and found anywhere. I don’t know about you, but the perfect world of my dreams is one where everything is good design — I know it’s a pretty utopic goal, but at least it gets me going.