Good Design

I have some friends who are lifelong design professionals (southerners of course)  and one has taken me to task about the Alessi post. Not that they disagree about Alessi in particular, but of course to remind me that there is such a thing as good design.

Oscar Wilde said that a thing that is made may be beautiful or ugly, and it may as well be beautiful as ugly). Oscar knew a thing or two and it is my contention he would have agreed with me about the fruit squeezer.

Dualits and Eames chairs were mentioned in this private communication, the nature of which I cannot mostly divulge, but my "aesthetically inclined" friend was right. Both these things not only look good and always will, they are of quality and actually do what they are supposed to do.

weasel watch
Some Swiss watches, masterpieces of design and art. Timeless, you might say. Myself I have this Eterna. They are the ones who pioneered the automatic watch. Mine is not an Eternamatic, but one day, it will be. Good design is almost invisible. That is you do not really notice how good it is because it merely does what it says it does on the box.

The Dualit of the recording world used to be the Uher portable tape recorder. Ugly as sin but it did the business. If you wanted absolute class and looks you got yourself a Nagra, which was the one (a smaller one than that pictured) that the Feds used to wire people up with. If you were a spy, you used a Nagra. Sadly, the ones used on Mission Impossible were nasty little japanese ones. Mind you, they did self-destruct.

Not so long ago I mentioned the Braun gramophone, designed by Dieter Rams in 1956. Look at and weep with joy. Think about how that seemed to somebody who inhabited a world of Harpic and Izal and Woolworths and stork margerine.

I will leave you to come up with your own nominations for good, timeless design classics and I shall leave Dieter Rams to tell you how you know.

1. Good Design is innovative
It does not copy existing product forms, nor does it produce any kind of novelty for the sake of it. The essence of innovation must be clearly seen in all functions of a product. The possibilities in this respect are by no means exhausted. Technological development keeps offering new chances for innovative solutions.
2. Good Design makes a product useful
A product is bought 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.
3. Good Design is aesthetic
The aesthetic quality of a product – and the fascination it inspires – is an integral part of the its utility. Without doubt, it is uncomfortable and tiring to have to put up with products that are confusing, that get on your nerves, that you are unable to relate to. However, it has always been a hard task to argue about aesthetic quality, for two reasons.
Firstly, it is difficult to talk about anything visual, since words have a different meaning for different people.
Secondly, aesthetic quality deals with details, subtle shades, harmony and the equilibrium of a whole variety of visual elements. A good eye is required, schooled by years and years of experience, in order to be able to draw the right conclusion.
4. Good Design helps a product be understood
It clarifies the structure of the product. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory and saves you the long, tedious perusal of the operating manual.
5. Good Design is unobtrusive
Products that satisfy this criterion are tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained leaving room for the user’s self-expression.
6. Good Design is honest
An honestly-designed product must not claim features it does not have – being more innovative, more efficient, of higher value. It must not influence or manipulate buyers and users.
7. Good Design is durable
It is nothing trendy that might be out-of-date tomorrow. This is one of the major differences between well-designed products and trivial objects for a waste-producing society. Waste must no longer be tolerated.
8. Good Design is thorough to the last detail
Thoroughness and accuracy of design are synonymous with the product and its functions, as seen through the eyes of the user
9. Good Design is concerned with environment
Design must contribute towards a stable environment and a sensible use of raw materials. This means considering not only actual pollution, but also the visual pollution and destruction of our environment.
10. Good Design is as little design as possible
Back to purity, back to simplicity.


Jim Baxter said...

My design for the airless fan has yet to be surpassed.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Ditto my fur lined walking stick. You would have thought in this weather...

Jim Baxter said...

I must order one of those from you.

And then there's my design for the motorised broken clock... another overlooked classic.

Dyson gets the knighthood and the money but he's a plodder. He never takes the extra leap into true creativity.


Jim said...

I've been an aircraft engineer for 30 years now and would nominate the English 'Spiralux' ratchet scewdriver as my design classic. Survives drops onto concrete hangar floors and always performs. I remember being on detachment in Italy and a squadron of F15's were competing against our F4's.
I walked out onto the flightline to replace a radio and the yank fitter was working on his F15 with a humongous tool kit. The size of a large wardrobe.
He watched in amazement as I removed the radio with my ratchet and refitted a spare with same ratchet and a wee bit of locking wire and pliers.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Jim, I like my Ryobi cordless drill. I am so pleased a scumbag nicked my cheap and nasty old one. Stanley knives - simple idea but fantastically useful and safe.

Jim said...

WW. I've seen that drill and have been jealous. Looks gorgeous.Blue and yellow and quality. I can spend all day in tool stores.
Stanley knives. Yes brill. Including their holder.
The Leatherman is also essential for overseas travel. Slides into your belt with the leather case. Ideal.