Monday, 13 September 2010

Day 256, on which John carries on with those principles [13.9.10]

Dag to hundrede seksoghalvtreds. Mondays, eh? How sucky are they? Well, not too bad today as it happens. Not bad at all. Not if you have a school trip they're not, har de har. Up to London I went today. National Gallery and the Transport Museum. Slightly uninteresting and mind-numbingly dull, respectively. So, luckily, I'm onto more design talk tonight. We're carrying on with Dieter Rams' ten principles of 'good design'. We're currently on 4.

4. Good design makes a product understandable.

This goes back to Rams' history with Braun, when he was trying to market the latest technologies (ie. cassette players) to the innocent consumers. They didn't know how to use such modern, complicated technology. Before then, music players were mainly still phonograph-style. Rams had to convey the use  and means of use of the new radios to the German public.

This takes a lot of work, and was part of the reason why Rams' super-functionalist approach was so effective. He stripped the designs right down to their bare essentials, knowing that if it had a few unnecessary dials or crazy patterns, it's confuse the user. Imagine today, if you see an image of a nuclear power station control board, you have no idea how to use it. You'd be scared to start; it's daunting. And that's exactly what the public would have been like if Dieter Rams had not reduced the designs of Braun's radios. The controls are simple, monotone, and spaced out. They are also grouped by what they're for; for example all the volume controls in one place. This is one of the famous Geställt Principles of Perception; that elements grouped together will be perceived by the users as being related in their function.

5. Good design is unobtrusive

This is one of Rams' principles that I really agree with. I'm a big supporter of subtle, unnoticable design. If a design looks good, and works well, then that's all it needs to do. It doesn't need to have big frills or bright colours to make it a good design. You shouldn't notice a good design. That's the total truth. It's meant to be subconscious.

For example, the Series 7 chair by Arne Jacobsen (he had to come into this somehow). It's a simple, plain design, but it's a good design. You're not meant to notice it; especially not in this modern-day world when you see Jacobsen rif-oofs all the time. Yet, it still maintains its design and its function. It still looks nice, but you don't really notice it.

Here's an example of what not to do. I was in the National Gallery today, and one this I hated was the frames on the artwork. OK, maybe I'm not a big fan of paintings in the first place, but why should you purposefully put shiny elaborate frames around them to distract from the paintings? You're appreciating the art, not the frame. An art gallery should be about focusing on the art, not distracting the user with stupid sculpted frames and retro wallpaper. Epic fail, National Gallery.

Well, more principles explained tomorrow. John needs to sleep now!

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