What is Good Design?

A high level look at what good design really is and some of its guiding principles

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Web design is much more than just building "pretty" things; it's about crafting useful and effective experiences for your users. You don't need to know how to draw or paint to apply good design either -- the basic principles that we'll be covering in the following lessons are much more fundamental than making pretty illustrations.

We've all seen sites that just don't feel right -- something about them makes you want to turn away. Or you get tired of reading for no good reason. Or you can't seem to locate what you need on the page. For a well designed site, the opposite is true -- you don't even notice it, it simply works.

In the next few lessons, you'll learn the tactical ways you can apply design principles to your own web projects. First, though, let's take a high level look at some of the fundamental (and more general) principles of good design.

10 Principles of Good Design

Dieter Rams

Dieter Rams

If, as we stated in the introduction, design is really just a way of problem solving, it's worth starting from a high level and thinking about what actually makes good design. How do we solve design challenges well?

German industrial designer Dieter Rams (who's kind of a big deal in the design world) proposed a list of 10 fundamental principles of good design which have informed the discussion about design for decades:

  1. Good design is innovative
  2. Good design makes a product useful
  3. Good design is aesthetic
  4. Good design makes a product understandable
  5. Good design is unobtrusive
  6. Good design is honest
  7. Good design is long-lasting
  8. Good design is thorough to the last detail
  9. Good design is environmentally friendly
  10. Good design is as little design as possible

Read Dieter Rams 10 Principles of "Good Design" from Arch Daily for more in-depth explanations of each of these. It's worth thinking for a moment about how each of these can apply to web design in particular.

For a great text about general principles of design, check out The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman. It's consistently a top recommended book for new students of design.

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