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Get Inspired with Dieter Rams’ Ten Principles of Good Design

By: CJ McGillivray

Published On: August 5, 2021

Get Inspired with Dieter Rams' Ten Principles of Good Design

Photograph by Tran Mau Tri Tam

Design is pretty ephemeral and subjective, right? Everyone has different tastes and preferences. But what about objective values that inspire really good user design experiences? What values or principles are typically discussed in an introductory UX design course or digital marketing course? Some educators propose that effective design should always be functional, structured and consistent as a starting point. Many creatives value accessible and inclusive design, logical context and minimalism too. Other theories propose a focus on the emphasis, contrast and alignment of your content or perhaps the movement and simplicity of your design. There are so many contradictory golden rules and guiding principles floating around. How do you know which principles to follow? The smart move is to step back and revisit the foundations of your art form. Consider the iconic ten principles of good design as originally envisioned by legendary creator Dieter Rams. 

The Visionary 

Who was Dieter Rams and why are his ideas important? Born in 1932, German industrial designer Dieter Rams is best known for his ten principles of good design which made their mark on a multitude of industries. He was also famously the head of design at Braun from the years 1961 to 1995 and inspired many recognizable products that we have come to know and love.


“You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people. Design is made for people.”

– Dieter Rams

His ethos speaks directly to the importance of user research, identifying user pain points and brainstorming solutions that focus on people above all. In her Newsweek cover story titled Design Literacy: A Primer, author Chee Pearlman describes how Dieter Rams and his contemporaries “elevated everyday objects and surroundings to the level of art.” Consider for a moment how such creativity could be applied to UX design. What would that look and feel like from the perspective of a user navigating your mobile app or website? 

Photograph by Abisag Tüllmann

The Ten Principles of Good Design 

Driven by necessity, Dieter Rams' ten principles for good design arose out of his own creative process and frustrations. The principles were envisioned as a response to the resource shortages and wasteful manufacturing that Dieter observed around him. In an effort to protect the environment and inspire a more aesthetic world, he conceived of the following: 

  1. Good design is innovative 
  2. Good design is useful 
  3. Good design is aesthetic 
  4. Good design is understandable 
  5. Good design is unobtrusive 
  6. Good design is honest 
  7. Good design is lasting 
  8. Good design is thorough 
  9. Good design is environmental 
  10. Good design is minimal 

Broad Applications 

Although his background is in manufacturing and industrial design, these ten iconic principles can be applied to the broadest conception of the term design. Dieter Rams' philosophy of good design is relevant when assessing architecture, fashion, graphic novels, landscaping, video games, magazine spreads and even complex digital user experiences. The clarity and simplicity of these ten principles have ensured their impact on future generations, regardless of the medium or genre that a designer is working in. How would you personally apply these principles in your own UX design work? 

The Human Factor 

In his timeless article on Industrial Design in a Time of Change, Dieter Rams argued that “designers must understand the criticism of technology, the mistrust, the fears and feeling of resignation people today.” Such perspective is vital for any designer. What makes your target audience frustrated or unsure of a product or design? What could you do to build trust and ensure a positive and comfortable user experience? You will of course navigate budget or software limitations at some point in your career, but you can ensure integrity and effectiveness by continually placing the focus back on the people who engage with your designs directly. Put people first and good design will follow.


“Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design.”

– Dieter Rams

Continuing Education 

Go where your inspiration takes you. If you are attracted to the beautiful simplicity of these ten principles for good design, you should definitely consider applying for a UX design certification program. Prioritizing your continuing education is always a smart call and it will open up an exciting range of creative opportunities for you. From information architect to usability analyst, there are numerous dynamic career options for you to consider. 

Photograph by Tran Mau Tri Tam


The information contained in this post is considered true and accurate as of the publication date. However, the accuracy of this information may be impacted by changes in circumstances that occur after the time of publication. Ashton College assumes no liability for any error or omissions in the information contained in this post or any other post in our blog.



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