Good Design

There is a list of criteria a design must follow to be identified as a good piece of design. According to Dieter Rams, there are ten principles that make a design good.

Good design is innovative. Good design makes a product useful. Good design is aesthetic. Good design makes a product understandable. Good design is unobtrusive. Good design is honest. Good design is long-lasting. Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Good design is environmentally friendly. Good design is as little design as possible.

To expand on Dieter Rams ten principles, a design’s form follows meaning. It’s greater purpose. For example, if a designer was choosing between materials for a food tray — lets say plastic and paper/card — both would do the job, but paper/card is more environmentally friendly, therefore this is good design. If the designer opted for the plastic tray, they would only be looking at how a form follows the design’s functions, but not the greater impact of its existence once produced.


A good designer cares about their impact on people and the planet.


Alongside Dieter Rams, is Victor Papanek — a designer, writer and activist. He was one of the first in his industry to recognise how harmful design can be if not done properly. On the cover of his book Design for Real Life it says:


Design is composing an epic poem, for executing a mural, painting a masterpiece, writing a concerto. But the design is also cleaning and reorganising a real desk drawer, pulling an impacted tooth, baking an apple pie, choosing sides for a world backlot baseball game, and educating a child.


Whilst Dieter Rams sets a strong precedent for good design with his ten principles, Victor Papanek’s work tells us more about why it’s important we hold such principles.


In his book Design for Real Life, Papanek quotes numerous designers, engineers, activists — at the start of Do-It-Yourself Murder he quotes:


The truth is that engineers are not asked to design for safety. Further inaction will be criminal — for it will be with full knowledge that our action can make a difference, that auto deaths can be cut down, that the slaughter on our highways is needless waste… it is time to act. — Robert F. Kennedy


Good design is by no means easy. It takes time, hours upon hours of research, and more revisions than you can imagine, but it’s worth it. By fostering empathy in our design process, we create a space for more honest and open communication, and we understand the reason why we do what we do on a more emotional and human level.


Good design isn’t about ‘stuff’, it’s about the experience and emotions that it brings along with it. It’s clear and understandable, making people feel confident with its use. It’s inclusive and for everyone — it makes people feel accepted and seen. It changes people’s perceptions, and makes them think. It’s about interaction and being human. Good design celebrates independence, and being authentic and real.

Whilst here at Consumer Insights Lab, we look at how services impact your customers, it comes from a deeper place than just wanting to help you sell more stuff. By understanding how design makes people feel, we can give them a better experience, and we can align ourselves with the good values people hold today. Good design in business shows that you care about the people that interact with your business — that their experience matters to you.