What is good design?

‘The function of art has in the past been given a formal importance which has severed it from our daily life; but art is always present when a people lives sincerely and healthily. Our job is therefore to invent a new system of education […] that may lead to a complete knowledge of human needs and a universal awareness of them. Thus, our task is to are a new kind of artists, a creator capable of understanding every kind of need: not because he is a prodigy, but because he knows how to approach human needs according to a precise method. We wish to make him conscious of his creative power, not scared of new facts, and independent of formulas in his own works.’
(Gropius, 1919).

Design is a transformational tool that can contribute to improve tangible and intangible factors in our life. Designers, in fact, not only create products ready to be used but are able to generate new values and knowledge and to help the society recovering their balance and ‘the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing’ (Munari, 1966).

Design has the power to translate art into a language, made of clear and simple terms and methods, that can be accessible for and usable by the majority. Design, as well as art, stands for equality, honesty and love for the others as well as for the environment.
The designers’ duty is to respond to the public’s demands, to understand the needs of its society and determine the solutions of its problems and lacks by being able to combine beauty and functionality.

Therefore, a designer is responsible for creating ‘good design’ that can effectively produce improvements in the society he lives in.
Around the early 1980s, Dieter Rams formulated ten principles, or commandments, in order to define what ‘good design’ is or should be. At the top of his list he claims that good design is innovative. Technology is always developing and design works and grows in tandem with it. Innovation is a characteristic that lays in the heart of creativity, anything creative is innovative and vice versa. Although when it comes to design, innovation must come from the balance between functionality and aesthetic. The aesthetic of a product emphasises its functionality and usefulness and affects our behaviours. Rams explains how good design must be durable and therefore never appear antiquated; he concludes by claiming that ‘good design is as little design as possible’ as it concentrates on the essential aspects. ‘Subtract rather than add: this rule must be understood in the sense of reaching simplicity, getting at the sense of the object by eliminating anything superfluous until no further simplification is possible’ (Munari, 1966).

Good design is collaborative, as it requires the cooperation not only between designers, engineers, technicians and companies but it calls for the participation of the buyers too and creates a bond between the producers and the consumers. The people that live in this planet need and strive all for the same things and this is why design is a synonymous for democracy. Design is an international language that can break all the boundaries between different ethnicities, political, social or economical statuses.
It should improve not only the quality of our lives but also the one of our home: the Earth. A design of quality must always take into consideration nature: not only as something to preserve, but also as something to take inspiration from and to be understood in order to achieve a better awareness of the world we live in.
Design is not just about producing goods that we are going to throw away, it’s about research, know-how, philosophy, morality, art, life and love.


  • Munari, B. and Creagh, P. (2008). Design as art. London: Penguin.
  • Vitsoe.com, (2016). Good design | About Vitsœ . Available at: https://www.vitsoe.com/eu/about/good-design [Accessed 21 Jan. 2016].
  • Papanek, V. (1972). Design for the real world. New York: Pantheon Books.





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