Dieter Rams – 10 principles for good design (applied to mobile apps)

Dieter Rams born in Wiesbaden, Hessen, Germany in 1932 is a thought leader and major influence in the realm of design. Ram’s simple approach to aesthetics and belief in “less but better” design helped create a timelessness to the products he designed for Braun. Rams has received worldwide acclaim and recognition from his work in addition to influencing many industrial and product designers world wide. One of the most major influences of Ram’s comes from the products designed by Jony Ive and the Industrial Design team at Apple.

Dieter Rams is also well known for the ten principles of good design listed below. I have added my own commentary and modified them a bit to apply more directly to mobile app design but they still maintain the integrity of the original list written by Dieter Rams. For the original list I recommend checking out the links I’ve included at the bottom.

Good design:

Is innovative – Not for innovations sake but designed in tandem with improving mobile technology and capabilities.

Makes a product useful – Intently consider the functional, psychological and aesthetic criteria of your app for success and disregard anything that detracts from it’s usefulness.

Is aesthetic – An aesthetically beautiful and well executed app is integral to its usefulness especially if it’s used every day. This can have a profound effect on people and their well-being.

Makes a product understandable – Apps should be self-explanatory and clear in their purpose and information structure. On-boarding users with information screens should be used with discretion.

Is unobtrusive – Apps fulfilling a purpose are like beautiful tools. They should be pleasing to look at but also clear in their functionally and not demand too much attention. Follow good conventions where they exist and don’t attempt to over-design.

Is honest – The design should clearly support the purpose and promise of the app to the user. Do not design the app to appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is.

Is long-lasting – Avoid following quickly changing trends in app design, instead focus on ageless design conventions like typography, color and hierarchy. Trends don’t last and soon look outdated, especially in mobile apps.

Is detail focused – Every detail of the apps interface is carefully considered and well crafted. The result is a delightful and intuitive user experience.

Is environmentally friendly – Design to conserve resources and minimize visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the app. Additionally, always consider the environment and context that the app will be used.

Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the app is not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.


Related articles
Context and constraints of mobile in UX design
How to create amazing apps for iOS (an introduction)

I’m in the process of writing a book on the essentials of iOS app design and how you can create beautiful and well crafted apps for iOS. Learn more here