Dieter Rams and his 10 Design Commandments

My first exposure to Dieter Rams was through a German lecturer I had at design school that really idolized him.  Perhaps it was his constant, “Dieter did this” or “Dieter would have done that” that really put me off Ram’s work. Now that I think about it, my former lecturer even looked and dressed like him!

However, throughout the years, I have come to recognize Ram’s extensive and important influence over modern industrial design. I know we have discussed Dieter before, but I have decided to create a post specially dedicated to this design legend who also happens to be going through a second renaissance. Do enjoy!

A Brave New World of Product Design with Dieter Rams from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.


Dieter Rams’ 10 Design Commandments


1. Good Design is innovative

It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all functions of a product. The possibilities in this respect are by no means exhausted. Technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.

2. Good Design makes a product useful

A product is bought in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose – in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimise the utility of a product.

3. Good Design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product – and the fascination it inspires – is an integral part of its utility. Without a doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, and that you are unable to relate to. However, it has always been a hard task to argue about aesthetic quality, for two reasons:

Firstly, it is difficult to talk about anything visual, since words have different meanings for different people.

Secondly, aesthetic quality deals with details, subtle shades, harmony and the equilibrium of a whole variety of visual elements. A good eye is required, schooled by years and years of experience, in order to be able to draw the right conclusion.

4. Good Design helps a product be understood

It clarifies the structure of the product. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory and saves you the long, tedious perusal of the operating manual.

5. Good Design is unobtrusive

Products that satisfy this criterion are tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained leaving room for the user’s self-expression.

6. Good Design is honest

An honestly-designed product must not claim features it does not have – being more innovative, more efficient, of higher value. It must not influence or manipulate buyers and users.

7. Good Design is durable

It is nothing trendy that might be out-of-date tomorrow. This is one of the major differences between well-designed products and trivial objects in a waste-producing society. Waste must no longer be tolerated.

8. Good Design is thorough to the last detail

Thoroughness and accuracy of design are synonymous with the product and its functions, as seen through the eyes of the user.

9. Good Design is concerned with the environment

Design must contribute toward a stable environment and sensible use of raw materials. This means considering not only actual pollution but also the visual pollution and destruction of our environment.

10. Good Design is as little design as possible

Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Quote extracted from Vitsoe, and do visit their site for some great images of Dieter’s work.


More Videos

Braun T1000 by Dieter Rams from Victoria and Albert Museum on Vimeo.


Other Links

a) Dieter Rams at Wikipedia.
b) Dieter Rams talks to Design Boom.
c) Dieter Rams at Wallpaper as a Guest Editor.
d) Dieter Rams at Vitsoe


So what do you think of Dieter Rams? I would love to hear your comments and any other links that you may have.

  • Ian Briggs

    April 20, 2011 at 4:33 am Reply

    It seems that the best automotive designs are all following these guidelines – and they are all from Germany!

  • Khaled

    May 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm Reply

    Hi you can see if you can get. Less But Better, ISBN: 3980348512, its unlikely you will get it new, but possibly second hand.

  • DT

    March 4, 2009 at 6:37 pm Reply

    @Mo: Very true and thanks for your comments.
    @Rui Hon: I’m sure there will be more books I will recommend in time to come, so do stay tuned to this blog!
    @Karen: Thanks for taking the time to leave your insightful comments.
    @Khaled: I am unaware he wrote any books. Do you have any title names?

  • Khaled

    March 3, 2009 at 10:05 pm Reply

    I think the new apple note book is using quite a few of these Commandments in its latest TV advert campaign to sell it’s products. He has written a number of books but all seem to be unavailable through amazon, a pity as he seems a very interesting designer to learn more about.

  • Karen Fu

    March 3, 2009 at 12:04 am Reply

    great commandments, but I would also like to add couple of others:
    — guts : courage to change what is really needed.
    — discerning critic: the wisdom and intelligence that will enable one to differentiate what is right or wrong by observation and not by what you hear. I think its important for design decisions.Or in any way, making good answers on how life should be live by design.

  • Rui Hon

    March 2, 2009 at 11:31 am Reply

    Hey, a very inspiring blog indeed ! I really love one of your blog post about the 25 books that u recommended us, I wish that you could recommend more books to us ? Perhaps touching more on the topics of “Thinking” Designing over “Doing” of the Design.
    Pardon my language though, I’m from Singapore.

  • Mo

    March 1, 2009 at 12:56 am Reply

    Excellent to be reminded of the basics, as they are the most essentials tools for an artist designer to have.

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