I was just reading more of the recent iOS 7 commentary (I’ve nearly had my fill..) and thinking about Sir Jon Ive’s oft-noted admiration for the designer Dieter Rams. in the more than 40 years that he spent working at Braun, dieter rams established himself as one of the most influential designers of the twentieth century. His elegantly clear visual language not only defined product design for decades, but also our fundamental understanding of what design is and what it can and should do. His design philosophy is summarised by the phrase “Less and More” (see the book). I suppose one of the ket tenets underpinning that is that simplicity, attractiveness and functionality are not mutually exclusive; that you can indeed have less and more. The way this is elaborated on most clearly is via Rams’ ten design principles:
good design is innovative.
good design makes a product useful.
good design is aesthetic.
good design helps to understand a product.
good design is unobtrusive.
good design is honest.
good design is durable.
good design is consequent to the last detail.
good design is concerned with environment.
good design is as little design as possible.
In thinking about how we go about creating digital products and experiences today, I think these principles are more relevant and important than ever. In fact, when you look closely, many of these come from the same intentions as our old fave, Eric Ries’ “Minimum Viable Product” (also, see adjusted versions “Minimun Desirable and Delightful Product”). When make websites, feeds, apps and other ideas it’s often tempting to be novel rather than innovative, faddish in our design or create communication products that interrupt rather than add value in other ways. The design principles above should apply more than ever to products that have interactivity embedded in them. We need to strive to have a person understand the intention of the design (without knowingly being a part of that process) and to have a clearly articulated view of the usefulness and role of the things that we’re making. If we try and follow those principles, stuff we make can have significance. For a product, being significant in some way, is the ultimate ambition.
Just thinking out loud
(The last time we referenced Rams’ and “Less and More” was when Georgie, The Royal, wrote and designed this piece called iPad: WTF?. It set out to explore what role tablet computing products might come to play in people’s lives. Since publishing that in 2009, the iPad has clearly found a place in many people’s daily habits.)