Dieter Rams Ten Principles of “Good Design” applied to 3D Printing


Aya Bentur  

Detail of 3D Printed Candle Holder Set Designed by Sebastian Bergne

In the 1980’s Dieter Rams (born 1932) wrote 10 guiding principles for good design, he believed and still believes, that we should design with care, with consideration of the consequences design and manufacturing have on our surroundings and society. Here are 10 examples of Dieter Rams ten principles of “Good Design” applied to 3D printing.

Good Design is Innovative:

“The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.”

An example of design developing parallel to technology is the growing world of 3D printed prosthetics. The development of technology allows for low cost, custom fit prosthetics and orthotics. Designing with this technology generates a new perspective on what it means or how it is perceived to be disabled. UNYQ not only uses 3D printing to personalize and digitally optimize prosthetics and orthotics, but they have created a lookbook and a community changing the image of prosthetics (below).

UNYQ uses 3D printing to personalise and digitally optimise prosthetics

Good Design Makes a Product Useful:

“A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.”

3D Printed Tactile Picture Books Project - University of Colorado Boulder

A team at the University of Colorado Boulder used 3D printing to create the Tactile Picture Books Project (above). The project creates 3D printed tactile picture books for visually impaired children and studies the scientific and technical questions that arise. “Instead of making a model that was beautiful and interesting to a pair of eyes, I was learning to consider the needs of others in an attempt to make something useful and educational to a pair of hands.” says  Caleb Hsu, a computer science undergraduate involved in the project.

Good Design is Aesthetic:

“The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.”

OTHR takes pride in bringing together great design and technology focusing on three main principles: Useful – every object must have purpose; Aesthetic– every object must have artistic merit; Unique – every object is designed exclusively for this project. By using technologies such as 3D printing, they avoid creating excess, and minimize environmental impact without compromising on the aesthetics. (below vessel designed by Philippe Malouin, up top detail of Candleholder Set designed by Sebastian Bergne).

Connection Vessel - 3D Printed Steel Designed by Philippe Malouin for OTHR

Good Design Makes a Product Understandable:

“It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.”

Locknesters aims at creating toys that encourage interaction, their latest toy is a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle that can be taken apart and assembled. The 3D printed bear puzzle is, on one hand, self-explanatory but on the other hand, calls to be taken, used and played with (below).

Locknesters 3D Printed Puzzle Bear

Good Design is Unobtrusive:

“Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore, be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.”

Nascent Objects (below) create modular consumer electronics. Their goal is creating a platform where electronic components do not go to waste. When a device like a smartphone no longer works there are still many functional parts that are discarded. With Nascent the users can re-integrate these parts into a new device, according to their needs. More about it here.

3D Printed Nascent Objects Creating Customized Consumer Electronics

Good Design is Honest:

“It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.”
Maya Ben David - ByPass - 3D Printed  Water Pipe Fittings

Project Bypass (above) is a system of 3D printed water pipe fittings, designed by Maya Ben David. Typically, the water infrastructure within houses uses specific standard-sized fittings in standard angles that restrict the movement of the pipe. This project adds a level of flexibility to a mundane object, a more democratic and personalized designed product for the end customer. Each Bypass piece can be adapted to match existing or new parts, allowing unlimited positions and structures – an honest design solution addressing a simple consumer need.

Good Design is Long-lasting:

“It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.”

Rowan Jackman’s Kit Lamp (below) combines 3D printed steel components with the traditional aspects of woodworking techniques. The design centers on the basic requirements of a lamp, creating a minimal structure. The connections allow for long lasting re-use, as the assembly does not rely on adhesive or additional hardware, keeping the elements in their original condition.

3D Printed Lamp Kit Designed by Rowan Jackman

Good Design is Thorough Down to the Last Detail:

“Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.”

3D printed 2.4 mm lens mounts for micro-optical systems - Nanoscribe

Nanoscribe is developing methods of microfabrication using 3D printing. The company’s Photonic Professional GT 3D printer is an ultra-high-resolution laser lithography 3D printer that is capable of layer thicknesses and detail sizes well below 1 micrometer (above: 3D printed 2.4 mm lens mounts for micro-optical systems). The optimization of 3D printing for end products and high accuracy creates a movement towards a different kind of manufacturing system. The costs of production are lower and the adaptability towards the consumer is higher. More about manufacturing with 3D printing here.

Good Design is Environmentally Friendly:

“Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.”

Adidas x Parley 3D Printed Sneakers Made from Recycled Ocean Plastic

In general , the use of 3D printing will lead to a much more environmental-friendly manufacturing model; manufacturing on demand, using digital libraries instead of warehouses, generates a more efficient use of raw materials, space, and transport.

Another potentially environmental aspect when using 3D printing is recycling materials.  Adidas teamed up with Parley in creating sneakers from recycled ocean plastics (above). The project brings attention to the growing contamination of the oceans, encouraging others to form creative initiatives and take action as well.

Good Design is as Little Design as Possible:

“Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.”

Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec recent exhibition 17 Screens, consists of seventeen suspended partitions made from a variety of materials that are installed throughout the space at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. One of the screens is an irregularly shaped piece composed of wooden twigs that are attached together by 3D printed connectors. The connecting elements have minimal interference in the wooden pieces, keeping the organic, simple form (below).

17 Screens Tel Aviv Museum of Art Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec - Wood and 3D Printed Connectors

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One thought on “Dieter Rams Ten Principles of “Good Design” applied to 3D Printing

  1. Good design:
    Learn from nature.
    Is intelligent.
    Is culturally relevant.
    Is humble.
    Is timely and timeless.
    Is loving and lovely.

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