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Dieter Rams 10 Principles of Good Design and How to Apply
Them in Graphic Design
After discussing the Vignelli Canon, were going to delve more into design principles applied
in the different fields of design today. One designer that Ive always admired is the industrial
designer, Dieter Rams. His works within different industries have become classic standards
of simple, elegant, and lasting design. Yet though his principles of design have spread
throughout the world, there are still far more thoughtlessly-designed products out in the
market.

Industrial Design for Graphic Design

Industrial design is the process of creating a product that combines the best of aesthetics, er-
gonomics, and usability. These three can be compared to typographic designs form, legibili-
ty, and readability. Design in general can be treated as a form of communication; it informs
and allows people to easily identify a product or concept based on its associated color and
form.

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As Vignelli would say, design is a language. Designers may have different specializations,
but all of them use design as a form of communication. Almost every principle made for a
specific design discipline can be used in another, and vice versa. Or we can just say, all these
principles are taken from one root human experience and its improvement.

Combining all the design principles we have today is an impossible task, but what we can do
is apply these principles into our chosen field of design. A great example of a set of design
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principles that can be easily transferred and used in various fields of design is Dieter Rams
Ten Principles of Good Design.

The Ten Principles of Good Design

Dieter Rams principles can be compared to Massimo Vignellis canon. The only difference
between them is that the latters principles were made particularly for typography. On the
other hand, Dieter Rams ten principles are about creating good product design, but can be
applied to any design field.

Now, if we were to skilfully apply Dieter Rams principles to graphic design (and maybe
even infuse it with the spirit of Vignellis canon), we would have an ideal design that not
only caters to the human need, but also helps improve human life along the way.

Below Ive condensed Dieter Rams ten principles to eight. Ive decided to combine some
principles that I think either need to work with one another (i.e., honest design, product un-
derstandability, and usefulness) or will be understood better when paired together (i.e., un-
obtrusive and thorough design). Heres how I think you can apply these principles in graphic
design:

Graphic Design

Is Innovative

As Austin Kleon would put it, steal like an artist. How do we innovate in graphic design? We
steal or borrow ideas, improve on it AND make it our own. Many, if not most, artists are in-
spired by other artists. If people from the 14th to the 17th century didnt think of a Renais-
sance, wed never see the world as we see it today.

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Is Aesthetic

Graphic design is more than a visualized idea. It must tap into the senses of the people and
act as catalyst for further interaction. Much like in advertising, it must tap into a customers
experience and emulate it, then provoke a longing for that experience. The smart execution of
design based on aesthetics can also be seen in classic magazine covers like Esquire, National
Lampoon, etc., as they portray a cultures current affairs and invite people to take part in it
by at least being updated and informed.

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Is Unobtrusive and Thoroughly-Designed

A graphic designs function is to disseminate information or an idea. It must not, by any
means, annoy or be visual pollution. The design must be well-thought of and appropriate. El-
ements and details of the design must also be considered; these may become restraining and
obtrusive if overused or left unconsidered.

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Is Honest

As a form of communication, graphic design must be presented directly no flash, no tricks,
no obstructions. It must be highlighted or be given emphasis for the audience. This is espe-
cially important in advertising; honesty and the capability to deliver is what drives an active
and loyal market.

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Is long-lasting
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Graphic design as a form of visual communication must be able to create a lasting message
that is either relevant or needed during his time. It is also upon the designer to be conscious
of his surroundings and ask we questions such as Do we need this?, Is this relevant
today?, or Will this change someones life?

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Is as Little Design as Possible

As an element in advertising, graphic design must be straightforward and concise. It must fo-
cus on information that is relevant to the market or audience. Graphic design streamlines in-
formation and makes it easier for people to understand, and it must do it in a functional yet
aesthetic method.

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Good design is not a mere standard in creating a product or an advertisement. Its a way of
life, a belief that better things can be provided to the public. Its one way of saying that design
has a lot to do with life and they way we live it.


Each designer has his own standard and principle when working on projects. As mentioned
earlier, people have different mileages regarding a lot of things. I cooked this up for begin-
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ners and experienced designers who wish to find inspiration from other professionals.

Please let me know your thoughts about Dieter Rams principles of good design and my pre-
sentation of them in this post, as well as how you think these can be applied to graphic de-
sign or to any discipline!

If you arent yet, please follow us on Twitter and/or subscribe to our RSS feed. If you have
suggestions for material for my other posts, Id love to hear them!