Try for free
HomeUser experience (UX)What are the principles of Dieter Rams’ design?

What are the principles of Dieter Rams’ design?

Last updated

26 April 2023

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

Dieter Rams is one of the most iconic modern designers and came up with the concept of functionality, simplicity, and Braun styles. He set the tone for innovation and functional design. According to Rams, design is more than the art of making a product beautiful. It involves more than just aesthetic design; if the final product is useless, it fails to fulfill its intended purpose.

Although interactive design has its own greats like Nielson Norman, the principles of Rams’ design are still fundamental rules and can be applied in more interface contexts today. 

Let’s take a closer look at the design principles pioneered by German industrial designer Dieter Rams and how they’ve impacted modern design.

What is Dieter Rams' design?

Dieter Rams' design is based on the philosophy "less is more," where minimalistic and simple designs are adopted as the norm. He has been cited as one of the greatest designers who laid the foundation for the functionalist design movement. This design movement follows the philosophy that a product’s form is driven by purpose rather than aesthetics. He firmly believed that a good design came from understanding people and putting an end to wastefulness. 

His design influences came early in his life when he worked as a carpenter at his grandfather's workshop. In his tenure as an industrial designer at Braun, Dieter Rams followed the philosophy of less but better. This approach has generated timeless, quality products that have gained an international reputation. The goal of his work was clarity of form, ease of use, and choice of material. 

Ten principles for good design

While working at Braun, Rams was on a quest to answer the question, “Is my design a good design?". To find an answer to the question, he devised ten principles of design that continue to inspire designers to date.

1. Good design is innovative

Innovation has endless possibilities. Technological advancement is always offering new opportunities for designers to be innovative. A product should reflect technological progress, and designers should reflect that novelty and innovation in their products. Since designers have constant access to developing technology, there’s no excuse not to innovate. 

2. A good design makes a product useful

A good design prioritizes the usefulness of a product. A product is purchased for use and must meet psychological and functional standards. This principle asserts that a product should have a specific function. Therefore, anything that limits its functionality should be eliminated. 

One might argue this rule helped set the precedent of what we know as usability with modern technology and interfaces.

3. A good design is aesthetically pleasing

Visual appeal, or aesthetic beauty, is integral to the usefulness of a product. A well-executed design should be aesthetically pleasing. People are more drawn to physically appealing products. 

With UI design mainly being on device screens, the word “physically” could be replaced with words like “virtually” or “visually” and you’d pretty much have today’s present day definition of UI Design. 

4. Good design makes a product understandable

A good design should be self-explanatory and make better use of the user's intuition. It should clarify how a product functions. It’s paramount for a product to have basic explanatory instructions. However, it shouldn’t have excessive instructions that may be tiresome for the user to follow. 

In other words, “don’t make me think,” much like Steven Krug’s now famous book preaches to today’s UX Designers.

5. Good design is unobtrusive

A vital aspect of a good design is to help a user perform a task and provide clear actions to complete it. A good design should be neutral to allow the user's self-expression. It shouldn’t distract a user in that the consumer should use it without much restriction. 

In much the same way, a beautifully designed digital interface can hide a crucial button, so we must ensure we keep our present day websites unobtrusive as well.

6. Good design is honest

A product shouldn’t make promises that can’t be delivered. Rams believed that a good design should be reliable and durable, allowing the use of it for its intended purpose. Designers are responsible for improving user experience and delivering on their promises. Therefore, actions shouldn’t be unambiguous. Instead, they should be honest about what they’re delivering to the customer. 

Congruently, some of Jakob Nielsen's ten general principles mean to capture the essence of this principle. Visibility of system status, match between system and the real world, user control and freedom, error prevention, flexibility and efficiency of use, and finally, providing ways to recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors all play into keeping the digital design honest to user’s expectations and communicating that effectively.

7. Good design is long-lasting

A good design never loses its relevance, and thus it never appears antiquated. Therefore, rather than seeking to follow fashionable trends, a good design should strive to remain timeless. 

Digital design has a much harder correlation to this specific principle, more often focusing on iterations being a positive aspect to keep up with the rapid pace of technology.

8. A good design pays attention to detail

In design, every little detail matters. Details such as accuracy, images, and text should be adequately designed to impress and assist the user in everything they do. Therefore, designers should pay attention to detail to make the product useful, honest, and timeless. 

In the digital space, we say “pixel perfect” and still focus on everything from the fonts to margins to running user testing to ensure every detail in our products also serves our user base.

9. A good design is environmentally friendly

A good design should contribute to the preservation of the environment. Dieter Rams strived to design products that contributed towards protecting the environment. 

We could stand to learn from this principle today, as technology could play a significant role in how we design and iterate in technology while staying environmentally friendly.

10. Good design is as simple as possible

A good design should not be overloaded with irrelevant details. Rams championed clean and straightforward designs and believed that less is more. An analysis of his works reveals the concept of minimalism, where products are not burdened with non-essential features. Instead, designers should declutter and only keep what’s needed. 

“White space” was coined in UI design as a crucial element in today’s websites and applications. Material design’s minimalistic elements is a good example of where we carried it through to today.

Examples of Dieter Rams' design

Dieter Rams worked at Braun and was the company's chief designer for over 40 years. During this time, he designed over 500 innovative products, including:

Phonosuper SK 4

Braun Lectron System

620 Chair Program

Braun Dymatic Pocket Lighter

Vitsoe 601 Easy Chair

Vitsoe 606 Shelving system

Braun Audio 310

ET66 Calculator

Impact of Dieter Rams on design today

Although he created his principles with physical products in mind, they remain relevant to other design fields. They’ve acted as guidelines for various fields, such as furniture, industrial, graphic, and interaction design

Even if one is unfamiliar with the name, there’s an undeniable chance that Rams' tenets of design have influenced appliances in their office spaces or homes. In interface designs, his principles have helped make websites easy to interact with. For example, the simplicity principle has helped interface designers build websites with only the required elements.

To date, the functionalist design remains immune to change. Rams created a new form of timeless design that avoids fashion trends. Up to date, some of his original designs, such as the 606 Universal Shelving System (1960), are still in production. His timeless designs have beaten obsolescence and trends.

In addition, Rams' design principles have been influential to brands like Apple. The influence of his design is evident in the works of Jonathan Ive, a designer at Apple. Apple's line of iPhones, iPad, and iPhones mirror the minimalistic styles that are principles of Dieter Rams. For instance, the iPhone OS 1 calculator app has directly been influenced by Braun ET44 calculators.


How to design like Dieter Rams

To design like Dieter Rams, make a product useful, understandable, innovative, beautiful, honest, environmentally friendly, and simple. 

What makes a bad design?

A bad design lacks appeal, is challenging to use, and has an unpleasant user interface. It’s also short-lived, forgettable, and not self-explanatory. 

What did Dieter Rams design?

Some of the products that Dieter Rams designed include the 606 Universal Shelving System, Braun Lectron System, HLD 4, and the T 3 Pocket Radio. 

What is the concept of good design?

Every good design centers on the concepts of balance, rhythm, harmony, scale, focal points, and proportion. 

Get started today

Go from raw data to valuable insights with a flexible research platform

Try for freeContact sales

Editor’s picks

What is a UX researcher? Roles, skills, and best practices

Last updated: 18 January 2023

How to create a design brief

Last updated: 27 April 2023

User persona templates

Last updated: 29 May 2023

Tooltips: The ultimate guide

Last updated: 22 May 2023

What is a digital customer journey?

Last updated: 22 May 2023

What is brand experience?

Last updated: 19 May 2023

What is adaptive design in UX?

Last updated: 19 May 2023

What is digital customer engagement?

Last updated: 14 May 2023

Usability testing templates

Last updated: 6 April 2023

Latest articles

Related topics

SurveysUser experience (UX)Research methodsCustomer researchMarket researchProduct development
  • What is Dieter Rams' design?
  • Ten principles for good design
  • Examples of Dieter Rams' design
  • Impact of Dieter Rams on design today

Dovetail, your insights hub

Translate your data into insights and bring your customer into every decision. Try for free.

Try for free


InsightsAnalysisScaleIntegrationsPricingLog in


About us
Security & privacyLegal

© Dovetail Research Pty. Ltd.
TermsPrivacy policy