I share this birthday with the beautiful, focused, German industrial designer, Dieter Rams. Rams is known for the aggressive minimalism that make his products undistracting, simple to use. It's rarely thought of this way, but software development is industrial design: it is developed by a few people, then distributed to many more. His ten principles for good design perfectly outline an approach for designing anything minimally. They can be used to create an unobtrusive digital life.

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Good design

1. is innovative.

If you're using Rams' priciples to simplify your digital life, don't set out with the goal to innovate. The best changes you will make to the way you use computers will come from removing the unnecessary, which will usually encourage you to compute in innovative ways.

2. makes a product useful 3. is aesthetic.

These two are useful for getting rid of digital clutter if you recall what Morris said. "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

4. makes a product understandable.

Simplifying your digital life is an antidote for the overwhelm that most experience when considering how highly abstracted simulations like video games are created by altering the alignment of electrons. Understand what you use.

5. is unobtrusive

This describes the main goal in designing zen-compatable computer systems. Remove an app from your phone if it distracts you; abstract a feature if it confuses your program's users; replace your big screen with a smaller one if you spend too much time plugged in.

6. is honest

Don't use or design computer systems that the user can't trust.

7. is long-lasting

Avoid the trendy, fashionable. Use systems that have been tested by time.

8. is thorough down to the last detail

9. is environmentally friendly

10. is as little design as possible

This is the only principle worth remembering. Make your digital life "less but better." Edit until only the things you need or love remain.

 

Photos by Abisag Tüllmann, Frank Landau