Dieter Rams and his 10 Design Commandments

File under:
Design Leadership

Written by Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)
Feb 28, 2009


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

Dieter Rams, designer – Cold War Modern 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 the its utility. Without doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, 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 a different meaning 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 for 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 environment
Design must contribute towards a stable environment and a 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, designer Dieter Rams – Cold War Modern 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.

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Mar 01, 09 – 12:56 am

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

Rui Hon
Mar 02, 09 – 11:31 am

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.

Karen Fu
Mar 03, 09 – 12:04 am

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.

Mar 03, 09 – 10:05 pm

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.

Mar 04, 09 – 6:37 pm

@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?

[…] via Vitsoe and Design Sojourn […]

Apple Is A Biter | Staple Crops
Jun 11, 09 – 2:34 am

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May 21, 10 – 5:35 pm

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

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Jun 11, 10 – 1:21 pm

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[…] manufacturer Braun for 30 years.  He is famously quoted to have said, Less, but better. We took his Ten Principles of Good Design to […]

Ian Briggs
Apr 20, 11 – 4:33 am

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

[…] a big fan of Dieter Rams, so much so that I have even dedicated an entire article here at Design Sojourn to his design philosophy. Therefore, I was quite excited to watch this rare […]

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