In the world where there are so many man-made things design is unavoidable. Everywhere you go, everything you see, design is all around and it touches so many things in our lives.
But what makes it good? How can we objectively distinguish good design from bad, and can we at all?
Does design has to be purposeful to be good or can good design be useless too?
Is good design something that happens by an accident? You know, when there is something happening at the right place and time, as some might think, destiny?
Who decides if design is good? Is it professionals who have the right background and knowledge to assess design or is it people, users, who decide by whatever works or does not work for them? Some might agree that it cannot be that straightforward with design. And definition of good design depends of individual definition of “good”.
Some guidelines are offered for evaluation of design from various authors.
For example, here are 10 Principles of Good Design by Dieter Rams:
- Makes a product understandable
- Is unobtrusive
- Long- lasting
- Thorough down to the last detail
- Environmentally friendly
- As little design as possible.
In his book (pictured above) Terry Marks suggests that good design needs to tell a story. He also introduces to some common characteristics of good design, such as: concept, content, craft, surprise, suspense, and communicative efficacy.
Could good design be determined to be good by its value? What is the value of design? Is it it’s usefulness, aesthetics or perhaps, price?
Are there any examples of obviously bad design or such design that all could agree is good?
For some such environmentally unfriendly, unhealthy lifestyle preaching and consumerist driven piece as McDonald’s fries holder is clearly an example of a bad design.
Or is it? For some this bright, innovative object might be a piece of a good design for such people as McDonald’s brand fans or little kids who would not necessarily understand or pay attention at the “flaws” of such object, but would appreciate letter “M” skateboarding on this vibrant red plastic object.
My personal hierarchy of good design principles would partly agree with Mark’s. Good design must tell a story and connect with me. It should also be aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly, ideally vegan and made out of wood. However, as someone who comes from an art background aesthetics might be more important to me than to other more “rational” people who might put “function” as a first on their list of characteristics of good design.
I believe there can be something like “academically” good design and “personally” good design. Whichever is more right would always be a subject for an argument.