There are a few lists around of dimensions of good design.
One of the most famous is Dieter Rams' 10 principles by which good design is:
- Makes a product useful
- Makes a product understandable
- Thorough down to the last detail
- Environmentally friendly
- As little design as possible
Archdaily sets out a little more description on this same list.
Here's another attempt.
Parsimoniously fit for purpose.
Easy to say, hard to do. That covers 1, 2, 4, 7 and 9 of Dieter's list.
Let's look at the coverage:
1. "Innovative" without purpose is waste. The wheel is good, but we innovated to tracks when they were better. Tracks on a racing car would be no good! Innovation for its own sake without a driver external to the object of attention is also waste; and possibly frivolous. On the other hand, if it takes us to unexpected benefits or stimulates external unexpected benefits, opportunities and investment, then all the better.
2. "Makes a product useful"
Of course, 'fit for purpose'. Noting that the wider 'purpose' is cast, the more better (!) the design is. The best design is produced on the back of deep understanding of all the drivers of purpose. These can range from an investors objectives, to users objectives, usability, lifetime costs, usable life, the applicable objectives of others who have in interest in the subject...and so it goes.
4. "Makes a product understandable"
Same as previous.
7. "Long lasting"
Better: lasts as long as necessary. A stage built for a temporary festival that would last 1000 years is not what we want...although some stages build for permanent use have lasted well over 1000 years.
If it lasts too long, the risk of over use of resources or over investment in the subject occurs.
9. "Environmentally friendly"
I've never known what this means, nor does anyone else, I suggest, as it is used to promote all sorts of political and commercial agendas.
Here's what we are after: Meets environmental requirements and in an overall sense, parsimiony of materials, effort, operation and ownership leading to minimal consumption of resources: just enough consumption to meet the user need, and just enough consumption through maintenance and cleaning. There is also a cost-performance trade off with any measures that are not core to the purpose of the design subject. Over-investment in one 'environmental' outcome will reduce the capacity to achieve other environmental or general product outcomes.
Uses inputs (materials, components and execution techniques) compatible with requirements.
This meets Dieter's 7, 8, 9, 10.
The core parameter is cost-effective deployment of industry capability. This can include innovations that are brought about, of course, but it is hardly good design if a product is impossible to achieve economically or with other consequential benefits.
Nothing meets number 6. To help think about 'honesty' in design, compare the 'honesty' of a CT scanner without the cover. Honest? Helpful for an anxious patient? Easy to keep clean? I don't think so, and darn scary when it starts spinning.
Enjoyable to own, use, operate.
Dieter's numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 8.
Enjoyable is hardly the word; perhaps enjoyable for the use: a hospital foyer's 'enjoyable' would be able to reassure patients, encourage staff and attract visitors. An opera house foyer: enthrall, excite, stimulate?
Enjoyable relates to practicality, affect, and aesthetic perception appropriate in the product's context.
Thus, in keeping with Dieter's number 10 my list is 3, his is 10. Less is more.