Originally conceived as a philosophical think piece of industrial design, Dieter Ram’s 10 principles of good design are applied across all disciplines of design. It has, in fact, been cited as inspiration for the design of many Apple products, for example.

For the next few weeks, we’ll explore all 10 principles and how they relate to digital design. In the first installment of this 5-part series, we’ll look at the following 2 principles:

  • Good design is aesthetic
  • Good design is as little design as possible

1. Good Design is Aesthetic

According to Rams, aesthetic design is characterised by clean lines, simple forms, and uncluttered surfaces. Not only is the aesthetic quality of a product integral to its usefulness, this principle also asserts that only well-executed products can be beautiful.

We’ve come to know Apple products and digital experiences as exquisitely minimal. It’s said that the Apple design philosophy is inspired by Dieter Ram’s 10 Principles of Good Design.

When talking about something aesthetic it doesn’t apply strictly to the set of colours, typography, and sizes of the visual components but to the execution of the set of elements that define the product.

Imagine giving the exact same baking ingredients and decorating instructions to a novice and a seasoned pastry chef. Both follow the fundamental steps to yield the same product and taste, but the seasoned pastry chef will present the more aesthetic cake. It’s often in the finer techniques and details – the chef’s execution – that yields the more aesthetic results. 

In the early 2000s and 2010s, thought leadership behind digital design began to prioritize stronger aesthetic considerations. Designing for emotional appeal and engagement became as important as building functional layouts that organized displays of information.

While beauty is subjective, aesthetic execution is a critical component of any experiences that are deemed user-friendly and engaging to its audience. In the context of UX/UI design, the principle of good design being aesthetic means that the design should aim to create a harmonious balance between form and function. The design should be visually appealing, but it should also be intuitive and easy to use – form follows function. 

The best guitar is the one that makes you want to pick it up and play it – unattributed

Apple’s design philosophy has established itself as an influential school of thought that is both studied, admired, and aspired to by practicing designers across industries.

The Takeaway
Good aesthetics require strong execution skills, and skills can be studied, sharpened and refined. 



2. Good Design is As Little Design as Possible

Another one of Dieter Rams’ principles is, “Good design is as little design as possible.” This principle emphasises the idea that design should be simple, minimal, and stripped of all unnecessary elements.

In the context of UX/UI design, this principle means that designers should aim to create works that are straightforward, uncluttered, and easy to use. The design should not be cluttered with unnecessary elements, but instead should focus on the essential elements that are necessary to achieve the desired user experience.

While each platform has it’s unique visual brand language, both apply the ‘less is more’ design philosophy, resulting in an easy-to-use interface. However, between these two screens, Apple’s UI goes even further, presuming to reduce cognitive load at any given point throughout the user’s experience.

Each UI screen above clearly aim to create a design that is minimal, with simple, easy-to-understand icons and intuitive navigation. They’re not cluttered with unnecessary buttons, menus, or other elements that might confuse the user or detract from the overall experience.

The idea behind this principle is that less is more, and that good design should prioritise simplicity and functionality over flashiness or complexity. By focusing on creating designs that are simple, minimal, and easy to use, designers can produce outcomes that are more likely to provide a positive and engaging user experience.


The Takeaway
By focusing on the essential elements and eliminating all which is unnecessary, designers can build projects that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, delivering a user experience that is both satisfying and enjoyable.