Good design takes a lot of thought. However, good design is something notoriously difficult to define, and impossible to determine objectively.

Dieter Rams is a German designer, known for his work with the consumer products company Braun and the furniture company Vitsœ. An adherent to the functionalist school of industrial design, in the 1970s Rams asked himself the question:

“Is my design a good design?”

The answer he came up with became the basis for his ten principles of good design, a renowned list of factors that inform whether or not a design is fit for purpose. Let’s explore what these principles are, and how they can be successfully applied to branding and marketing.

1. Good design is innovative

Human creativity is endless, and it’s important to recognise that there’s always space for new ideas. While branding must be fit for purpose, if it only does the same thing as everyone else, then it won’t stand out. Innovative brand design is about breaking down the fundamentals of a business and finding new ways to express them.

2. Good design makes a product useful

Branding is integral to a business’ identity, and its main purpose is to give clients and customers a good sense of the business’s goals while creating a strong impression. Branding is most useful when these factors are adaptable, however. This means that it’s designed to be well-suited across different mediums and touchpoints, even those that weren’t considered in the design process.

3. Good design is aesthetic

Humans like things to look pretty, and we always have. Aesthetics is a basic component of brand design, but cannot be underestimated. Simply put, good-looking brands are more appealing than bad-looking brands.

4. Good design makes a product understandable

As stated above, a brand needs to be a reflection of the business it is representing. A customer or client should be able to look at a brand and get a strong sense of their goals and intentions. This might involve choosing brand colours associated with a specific sector, or designing a logo representative of the business’ offerings.

5. Good design is unobstructive

Good design doesn’t overstay its welcome – it does what it needs to and wastes no time doing anything more. If a brand tries to do too much at once, then it won’t do anything well. As a result, good brand design needs to know what to emphasise and what not to in order to be successful.

6. Good design is honest

Branding needs to be truly representative of a business – if it lies to its customer base then they will feel cheated. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be representative of what a business wants to be too though. This goes hand in hand with being unobstructive – you just need to know what aspects of a brand to emphasise and when.

7. Good design is long-lasting

Every brand will need a refresh at some point, but the best branding will have core components that never need to be. Like the McDonald’s arches or the Nike tick, the best iconography can be happily associated with a brand forever. Brand recognition is integral to its success, and the public needs the time to get to know a brand before they’ll recognise it easily.

8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail

Even the subtlest parts of a design have an impact on its viewer. Thorough design allows you to cover every eventuality and ensures a brand is fully fit for purpose for a long time to come.

9. Good design is environmentally-friendly

It is very forward thinking that Rams would consider the environment in his principles, and it is just as true now as it will ever be. It’s not just a moral statement to consider the environment, but practical in terms of not being obstructive, and in maintaining longevity. It’s easier than ever in the digital age, but from the start you need to ensure no aspect of your brand identity is hinged on environmentally-damaging products or materials.

10. Good design is as little as possible

Less is more in design. In the design process you must always ask yourself “is this necessary?” By cutting down on the unimportant parts of your brand design, you can focus on the aspects that make it unique and functional.

It will always be true that a good design is subjective, but these principles are a useful guide to inform any design process. It’s also true, however, that you have to know the rules to know when to break them. So if you find a good reason to ignore one of these principles, it might be the key to making your design more successful.

If you need design work for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re always happy to help.