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Dieter Rams’ legendary ten rules for good design are getting a lot of love lately, and it got us thinking…they’re not such a bad guide to building a gentleman’s wardrobe.

The rules are a summation of the spare German style that’s been giving us sleek metal desks since the Bauhaus days. They’re a mouthful, but it boils down to making simple, long-lasting objects that are functional above all else—which sounds a lot like our raincoat.

The rules aren’t anti-style, just strongly against anything superfluous, which is another lesson to keep in mind the next time you find yourself on the cusp of buying spats. Style should be functional, even if the function is nothing more than making you look good. These are the rules to getting there.

01. Good design is innovative.

It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty just for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all of a product’s functions. Current technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.

02. Good design makes a product useful.

The product is bought or used in order to be used. It must serve a defined purpose — in both primary and additional functions. The most important task of design is to optimize the utility of a product’s usability.

03. Good design is aesthetic.

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

04. Good design helps us to understand a product.

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

05. Good design is unobtrusive.

Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

06. Good design is honest.

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it normally is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

07. Good design has longevity.

It does not follow trends that become outdated after a short time. Well designed products differ significantly from short-lived trivial products in today’s throwaway society.

08. Good design is consequent to the last detail.

Nothing must be arbitrary. Thoroughness and accuracy in the design process shows respect toward the user.

09. Good design is concerned with the environment.

Design must make contributions toward a stable environment and sensible raw material situation. This does not only include actual pollution, but also visual pollution and destruction of our environment.

10. Good design is as little design as possible.

Less is better — because it concentrates on the essential aspects and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity!

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom