History of Design and Craftsmanship

Good Design Makes a Product Useful: Exploring Dieter Rams’ Design Principle

The principle of Good design makes a product useful goes beyond the mere aesthetics, delving into a product’s core functionality and purpose. It encapsulates the idea that design should enhance the usability and functionality of a product, creating a seamless and efficient user experience.

Defining “Useful” from Different Viewpoints

From a user’s perspective, a useful product is one that seamlessly integrates into their daily life, addressing specific needs and challenges. It enhances their experience by solving problems and simplifying tasks. A user-centric design ensures that the product is intuitive, ergonomic, and easy to interact with. Whether it’s a smartphone, a kitchen appliance, or a piece of furniture, a useful product understands its user and is designed to cater to their needs.

From a functional viewpoint, a useful product accomplishes its intended purpose efficiently and effectively. It doesn’t possess extraneous or convoluted features that detract from its primary function. Instead, it excels in its core purpose, ensuring reliability and consistency. Dieter Rams emphasized the importance of stripping away unnecessary embellishments, focusing on functionality that stands the test of time.

From an environmental perspective, a useful product is one that contributes to sustainability. Rams’ design philosophy encompasses the idea that less is better, emphasizing quality over quantity. A useful product endures through its timeless design, reducing the need for frequent replacements. This approach inherently reduces waste, fostering a more sustainable consumption pattern.

Dieter Rams’ Influence on Useful Design

His designs embraced simplicity, avoiding excessive ornamentation in favor of clear functionality. For instance, his famous “10 Principles of Good Design” were a testament to his dedication to usefulness – the idea that design should focus on solving problems and enhancing usability.

Rams’ design language extended to his creations, such as the Braun ET 66 calculator and the Vitsoe 606 Universal Shelving System. These products embodied the “less but better” philosophy, achieving a timeless quality that continues to resonate with consumers and designers alike. The calculator’s minimalist layout and the shelving system’s modular adaptability highlight Rams’ commitment to making products that are visually pleasing and genuinely useful in their specific contexts.

The Ongoing Relevance of Useful Design

In a world inundated with products competing for attention, Dieter Rams’ principle that good design makes a product useful remains as pertinent as ever. In fact, it’s a guiding light for designers navigating the complexities of the modern consumer landscape. The inundation of features for the sake of novelty has often resulted in confusing and cluttered products. Rams’ philosophy encourages designers to take a step back, reassess, and prioritize utility. By placing functionality at the forefront, designers can create products that offer genuine value and enhance users’ lives.

Dieter Rams’ assertion that good design makes a product useful is a cornerstone of his influential design philosophy. It highlights the importance of creating products that look appealing and serve a purpose, solve problems, and contribute positively to users’ lives. By embracing this principle, designers can create products that stand the test of time, resonate with users, and leave a lasting impact on the world of design.


I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

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