Breaking the mold: rethinking the principles of good design

Listen to Article

Good design is timeless. It should force us to examine the core values of our products, check if they align with our brand’s personality, and see if their concepts are relevant in today’s market. It has been said that good design is simple and universal, while bad design is complicated and specific to a niche group. At Segern we believe the best designs break the mold, challenging accepted ideas on how things should look and feel — you know, the unstandard approach. But not all designers are equal when it comes to breaking convention, let alone conventions we have grown used to over time. In fact, a lot of designers aren’t even aware that there are principles of good design that they should be basing their designs on in order to break those rules in favor of intuitive taste or instinctive decisions. So, in this article we’ll dive into what these design principles are and how we as creatives can break the mold, think unstandard, and rethink design principles in ways that allow us to push boundaries.

What are the principles of good design?

In the world of design, there are several principles that are widely accepted as the foundation of good design. These principles were outlined by renowned designer Dieter Rams, who is known for his work at Braun and his influence on the design of iconic Apple products and software. According to Rams, the ten principles of good design are as follows:

  1. Innovation: Good design should be innovative and provide new solutions to problems.
  2. Functionality: Good design should be functional, serving a purpose and solving a problem.
  3. Usability: Good design should be easy to use and intuitive.
  4. Sustainability: Good design should be environmentally friendly and consider the long-term impact of the product.
  5. Durability: Good design should be built to last and withstand wear and tear.
  6. Longevity: Good design should be timeless, not reliant on trends or fads.
  7. Unobtrusiveness: Good design should be subtle and not distract from the main purpose of the product.
  8. Honesty: Good design should be transparent and not deceive the user in any way.
  9. Thoroughness: Good design should be thorough and not leave any loose ends or unfinished elements.
  10. Responsiveness: Good design should be responsive to the needs and wants of the user.

These principles serve as a guide for designers to create functional, aesthetically pleasing, and user-friendly products. However, as mentioned earlier, the best designs often break the mold and challenge these principles in order to push boundaries and create something truly unique.

7 ways creatives can push the boundaries of good design

So, how can designers break the mold and push the boundaries of good design? Here are seven ways that creatives can begin to challenge the traditional principles of design:

  1. Be a time traveler: Challenge yourself to think beyond the present. Design should never be out of touch with the times, but it doesn’t have to be appropriate for only one period in time. Stretch your imagination and dare to design ahead of its time, the world will inevitably catch up, and it will feel as if it was always meant to exist now, as well as in that future.
  2. Be intuitive: Do not design based on how people feel about the past. Instead, think about what will make your product useful and relevant for current and future consumers. Practice what we like to call “anticipatory design”, this is the act of challenging yourself to identify and address the needs of users before the problem is even evident to them, or has come to fruition at all. This is sometimes a hard one, but when accomplished it feels like pure magic for the end users.
  3. Create a strong personality: Products should be designed to reflect their brand’s personality in order to build trust between creators and consumers. Seek to embed instances of familiarity, playfulness, attitude, timidness or any appropriate characteristics into products to give them a touch of humanity.
  4. Embrace experimentation and exploration: Good design is not static. It evolves, upgrades, and changes with the times. This process of change has been called "iteration", “ideation” or "experimentation", but in short this is what designers should always be doing, this is treating the world like a playground for your mind in order to enable you to breathe life into successful solutions for any problem. For example, experiment with new materials and technologies to explore how they could be used in unconventional ways within your work, creating solutions that are unique and innovative.
  5. Be willing to take risks: Try new ideas, even those that have never been done before and especially those that break convention because the end goal is to create something that’s beautiful, functional, and memorable for a specific human use, need, or struggle. These ideas may be met with resistance in the beginning but trust that they will eventually resonate with an audience if the true intent behind them is to serve humanity.
  6. Understand where and when you are designing for: One of the most important things designers need to do is to consider the context in which their design will be used. This includes factors such as the intended purpose of the design, the intended audience, and the environment in which the design will be displayed or used. Don’t stop there though: push yourself to exercise foresight, to think five steps ahead and imagine where your design may end up beyond its original creation point.
  7. Run to mistakes not from them: A good designer's approach should be more focused on how they can learn from their mistakes than how they can't make mistakes.

Examples of creative approaches to good design

Here are a few examples of how designers have pushed the boundaries of good design and challenged traditional design principles:

  1. The Nest thermostat: The Nest thermostat is a perfect example of how designers can challenge traditional design principles in order to create something truly innovative. The thermostat is designed to be easy to use, with a simple interface and intuitive controls. However, what sets it apart is its ability to learn the user's schedule and adjust the temperature accordingly, saving energy and money in the process. This innovative approach to design breaks the traditional mold of thermostats and provides a unique solution to a common problem.
  2. The Tesla Model S: The Tesla Model S is a revolutionary car that challenges traditional design principles in several ways. The car is all-electric, making it more environmentally friendly and sustainable than traditional gasoline-powered cars. It also has a sleek, modern design that breaks away from the traditional boxy shape of most cars. Additionally, the Model S has a number of innovative features, such as the ability to be controlled with a smartphone app and self-driving capabilities, that challenge traditional notions of what a car should be.
  3. Oura Smart Ring: The Oura Smart Ring is a wearable device that tracks various aspects of health and wellness, such as fitness, stress, sleep, and overall health. It differs from other fitness tracking devices, which are often wristbands, smartwatches, or chest straps, by being a discreet and unobtrusive ring that boasts a plethora of sensors to capture your health data and give you an in depth look into your overall wellbeing. This innovative design breaks the mold of its industry and is a prime example of how designers can challenge traditional design principles in order to create something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Final thoughts: the value of rethinking the principles of good design

Good design should always consider the core principles outlined by Dieter Rams, such as functionality, usability, and sustainability. However, the best designs often challenge these principles in order to push boundaries and create something truly innovative and unique. We believe that as creatives, thinking unstandard is paramount. Thinking unstandard empowers and encourages us to continually reexamine and rethink the principles of good design in order to create products that stand the test of time, elevate the bar for the present, set the vision of the future, and inspire others to do the same.

Read more.

Unstandard Pages.

Breaking the mold: rethinking the principles of good design

Dec 31, 2022