Tuesday, 2 February 2016

What is Good Design?

Good design, according to Dieter Rams can be achieved by following his "10 Principles of Good Design" which cover many different aspects of design, ranging from aesthetics to sustainability.

Personally I believe 'good design' must be original; this was noted in Rams' 10 Principles as innovative design. Good design may challenge existing ideas but not always oppose them, and if not in opposition to existing ideas, then good design should develop upon these ideas and push them further.

Figure 1. Bags with non functioning zips and pockets
To be 'good', design must be necessary. "Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible." as well as "Good Design Makes a Product Useful" are two of Rams' principles of Good Design which I think are incredibly important to be considered by designers and consumers alike. To demonstrate my point, I can use the opposite of good design: bad design. To me, bad design is something that has not been carefully considered, if the consumers' needs are not thought of by the designer then there is no way a product or system can function well, thus the design will be useless. At the same time, something that is badly designed would be something that is complex, with many different elements that are not cohesive or complimentary to the object and do not function neither alone or together. An example of excessive aspects of a product can include fake pockets and fake zips that are non-functioning [Figure 1]. Excessive aspects of a product can not only over complicate things and sacrifice the functionality of the product, but can also be detrimental to the environment. More materials mean more manufacture is required, usually meaning more fuel is used and thus a greater impact on the environment. As well as more manufacture, this also means that there is more potential for waste and by-products which lead to pollution and environmental damage.

This leads on to the idea of dematerialisation; the total or partial reduction of materials without sacrificing the quality of the product or the way it works. An example of a dematerialised product is the Terra Chair [figure. 2], utilising entirely compostable materials, essentially resulting in a chair that has used almost no materials, working with just form and reshaping the natural environment. Good design should include dematerialisation wherever possible; some of the best design is less tangible, for instance, designing for behaviour change or the way a consumer interacts with a product rather than focusing in on the physical products or objects themselves. A recent example of designed behaviour change is the 5p plastic bag tax, a simple yet incredibly effective method to challenge and change the everyday actions of society.
Figure 2. The Terra Chair

According to Rams, design must be "understandable" to be good. I agree with this to an extent as I think the best design is design that is accessible to all and not elitist or discriminative, but at the same time I believe design should push boundaries and ask questions as well as answer them.

The idea of what is good design and what is not, is so subjective that I see good design as something that it is not so easily categorised by a set of principles as design comes in so many different forms and is present in every practice. I also believe there are other possible “principles” that are neglected by Rams, such as good design is timeless, multifunctional and not wasteful.