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 understandable
  • Good design is thorough

Design that is both understandable and thorough is effective in communicating its intended message or purpose, while also ensuring that all necessary aspects of the design have been carefully considered and executed. These two principles both contrast and complement one another, when combined they ensure that a design is intuitive to use and comprehensive in its ability to serve all the potential needs of the user.

GMD What Is Good Design Part 2 Blog

3. Good design makes a product understandable

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

When a user engages with the product or design they intuitively understand how it functions, how to hold it, and anticipate what will happen next. 

GMD What Is Good Design Part Braun iPhone 2 Blog
Understandable design creates products that require little or no instruction. At first glance, the user will be able to interact with the design/product intuitively. The Braun shaver’s minimalistic design had no labels was very self-explanatory to the user; intuitive users would know how to hold it and where the ON/OFF button was. When the iPhone ‘Slide to Unlock’ function when introduced to users (the Touch-screen was not yet widely used), the button incorporated simple/subtle ‘slide to unlock’’ instructions that made unlocking the device clear.

Understandable design is clear and easy to comprehend, even for those who are not familiar with the particular design. It should convey its message or function in a straightforward and concise manner. This can be accomplished through the use of clear and simple visual language, intuitive navigation and user interface design, and effective use of colour, typography, and imagery.

GMD What Is Good Design UI Example Part 2 Blog
In this example, the same information is available, in human-readable language. However, the example on the left has no form, no sense of hierarchy, and the use of colour has no intention or logic. On the right, typography and colour come together to structure the information in a way that provides the reader direction, and a sense of importance in the content.

Reduce errors
Mistakes and errors happen, it’s nearly inevitable. Whether someone runs a sequence that uncovers a rare bug or the wrong button is clicked before the action should be completed, our products and experiences have to be able to handle errors. Good user experiences not only inform a user when an error has occurred, but they also actively design to prevent errors from happening in the first place.

4. Good design is thorough down to the last detail

Nothing is arbitrary or left to chance. care and accuracy in the design process show respect toward the user.

Thoroughness in design means the designer foresaw and tested the design in a multitude of ways in order to mitigate problems or difficulties with the user’s interaction with the design or product.

GMD What Is Good Design Check Out Process UI Part 2 Blog
Displaying the progress and steps of a checkout process provides clarity, removing any confusion for the user during their transaction.

Thorough design involves careful attention to detail and consideration of all aspects of the design, both big and small. This includes not only the visual elements of the design, but also the user experience, functionality, and usability of the product or project. Thorough design requires careful planning and testing and often involves collaboration between designers, engineers, and other stakeholders.

The Takeaway

To create a design that is both understandable and thorough, it is important to start with a clear understanding of the intended audience and the purpose of the design. From there, designers can work to develop a clear and concise visual language that effectively communicates the intended message or function. Thorough design requires attention to detail at every step of the process, from planning and concept development to prototyping, testing, and final execution.

Overall, creating a design that is both understandable and thorough requires a combination of clear communication, attention to detail, and a deep understanding of the intended audience and purpose of the design. By following these principles, designers can create an effective and impactful design that meets the needs of their clients and users.