What is good design?
A brief history of the state of design in 1970sGood design is subjective, can't necessarily be measured, but it feels somehow obvious. What is obvious is most likely to be universally accepted and recognized in the industry as a 'standard'. However, because design is often very personal, good design needs to be supported by clear arguments or facts in order to be recognized so. In this article we'll talk about when good design was firstly mentioned, why, its principles and how to use those as arguments for supporting the quality of your work."Good design is subjective, can't necessarily be measured, but it feels somehow obvious."Good design was firstly mentioned in the field of industrial design - and no wonder it was done so, because during the time when this paradigm appeared (1970s) products finally started to be labeled as 'good' because of product-market fit based on user need, and not so much on aesthetics.
Products started to be manufactured with a focus on human factors, using clear datasets based on human dimension standards, many of those being still in use today in various industries. This method on focusing on user needs became known as human centered design (HCD) and today is one of the most used design process. Coming back to 1970s, business markets continued to grow and were influenced by the miniaturization of electronics (trend to manufacture ever smaller mechanical, optical and electronic products and devices than the ones already existent at that time - think of mobile phone, computer) allowing industrial designers to experiment more, forming a new design revolution: the Mid-Century Modern Design. For a better overview of the decade, all the products were accompanied by ads, labels and posters in a graphic design style which was characterised by thick lines, bold color choices and simple layouts (see image below).George Tscherny, graphic design for city guides, early 1970s.
Dieter Rams: Ten principles for good design
“The world is an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises" said Dieter Rams - a significant industrial designer of that decade, well-known for being a designer for Braun for 50 years. Naturally, as a response to the movement, he started to be concerned by the state of world at that time, and that's how everything started.
Dieter asked himself: "Is my design good design?". He answer to this question with a list of ten principles, well known and debated by the design community since then. The principles were as following:
1. Good design is innovative6. Good design is honest2. Good design is unobtrusive 7. Good design is long-lasting3. Good design is aesthetic8. Good design is environmentally-friendly4. Good design makes a product understandable9. Good design is thorough down to the last detail5. Good design makes a product useful10. Good design is as little design as possible
1. Good design is innovative2. Good design is unobtrusive 3. Good design is aesthetic4. Good design makes a product understandable5. Good design makes a product useful6. Good design is honest7. Good design is long-lasting8. Good design is environmentally-friendly9. Good design is is thorough down to the last detail10. Good design is as little design as possibleDieter Rams: Ten principles for good design, VITSOE
Fast forward 50 years later
Steve Jobs said once in one of his interviews that "Some people think design means how it looks. But, of course, if you dig deeper, it's how it really works.” When the good design principles were 'invented', they were very specific pointing at physical products. But looking at the products of today, do they still apply?Fast forward to 2020, approximately 50 years later, we can agree to Steve Jobs and say that design is not necessarily about the product — it is about the experience. Design split up into so many variations and it became very particular (think of speculative design, social design, participatory design, etc.). Consequently, because this domain is worth debating, in the following article we'll make a subjective analysis of the principles mapped on the discipline of digital product design, with explanations and examples from todays time.