Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

I wonder what these principles would look like applied to a wardrobe? A home? I’m intrigued by the possibility of applying a sentence like, “A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic,” to the way I dress. If a person needs to be useful, in functional, psychological, and aesthetic ways, how can the way I dress facilitate my usefulness in my current situation while holding in balance the mental and visual aspects of what I wear? Or what would my home look like if I put into practice the idea of concentrating on “the essential aspects” and not burdening it with non-essentials?

Food for Thought: The Harvard Healthy Eating Plate

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to eat more whole grains as a family (sorry, Partner in Crime, you’re along for the ride!) Overall, I felt like we ate healthy enough to keep me from worrying and unhealthy enough not to look like weirdos when we had people over to dinner 😉

However, I knew there were some areas we could up our game. One of the things I wanted to avoid, though, was unscientific nutritional advice. There’s so much advice floating around in the name of health that is unsupported or just plain wrong. *cough*GMOS*cough* I found Authority Nutrition, which links supporting studies through all it’s articles, and that helped, but they still sometimes get off-track, and they also focus way more than I’m interested in on weight loss versus overall health.

When I happened on the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, though, something just clicked. So much nutrition advice can feel conflicting, or burdening, or restricting, but this just feels easy. Although we pretty much ignore the advice about bacon and butter, everything else has been easy and enjoyable to incorporate without feeling like I have to buy all kinds of unusual/expensive specialty items or demonise all the ordinary food at the grocery store.

Simple to remember, research-based, and freeing– our crisper drawers are full and we’re happy campers.

Adventures

This post on Adventure Journal had a bit that hit me like a lightning bolt:

“A couple weeks ago, Alastair Humphreys told me about the Explore feature on Kayak.com that allows you to enter the amount of money you’d liked to spend, and shows you where you can fly in the world for that amount.

This is of particular interest to Alastair, because this year he’s encouraging everyone to save £20 (or $20, or €20) every week for the entire year, and then take that money and plan an adventure with it—for $1,000. He said at the time of our conversation, a little over halfway through the year, he would be able to get from his home in the U.K. to New Zealand, according to Kayak.”

A quick and dirty calculation tells me Steven and I could get to Portugal next year if we did this $20 a week plan. Since we haven’t been on a vacation longer than a weekend since our honeymoon (4 years next week!) and not at all since our children were born, this would make a good goal for our 5-year anniversary. Because heck yeah I’d go to Portugal with him!

Want to find out where you can go with your budget?

Listen Hard

I’ve been reading the Native Appropriations blog and really enjoyed this post on the phenomenon of hipster headdresses. It also represents a beautifully articulated discourse on the subject of listening to the marginalised in general:

“I’m trying to think of examples of things I respect, and how I show that respect. I’m actually struggling to think of a time when I respected something, and decided the best way to show that respect was by taking it. I respect the Dalai Lama, but I wouldn’t put on Tibetan monk robes to show that respect. I respect the Zapatistas, but I’m not going to don a mask and wrap myself in an EZLN flag. You know how I show respect? I listen. I listen hard, I listen deeply, and I listen constantly. I listen to stories, I listen to histories, I listen to learn, and I listen to hear when I’ve misstepped. I listen so I can become a more complete human being. It is clear from your response that maybe you heard, but you didn’t listen. If you would have listened to our voices as Native community members, you would have seen that the way to show respect to your Native friends and neighbors was not to put on a headdress and defend your choice, but to take it off and apologize.”

Organic Farming & The Environment

I really appreciated this article from Scientific American, which tells the other side of the organic vs. conventional farming debate. Having grown up in conventional farming, I’ve found myself a bit troubled by the rather uninformed way the general public seems to be jumping on the organic farming bandwagon without realising that it’s not the panacea it can feel like. I’d recommend the whole article, but here are a few salient quotes:

“…organic farming practices use less synthetic pesticides which have been found to be ecologically damaging. But factory organic farms use their own barrage of chemicals that are still ecologically damaging, and refuse to endorse technologies that might reduce or eliminate the use of these altogether. Take, for example, organic farming’s adamant stance against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs have the potential to up crop yields, increase nutritious value, and generally improve farming practices while reducing synthetic chemical use – which is exactly what organic farming seeks to do… Yet organic proponents refuse to even give GMOs a chance… Ecologically, the GMO is a far better solution, as it reduces the amount of toxin being used and thus leeching into the surrounding landscape and waterways….
But the real reason organic farming isn’t more green than conventional is that while it might be better for local environments on the small scale, organic farms produce far less food per unit land than conventional ones. Organic farms produce around 80% that what the same size conventional farm produces (some studies place organic yields below 50% those of conventional farms!). Right now, roughly 800 million people suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and about 16 million of those will die from it. If we were to switch to entirely organic farming, the number of people suffering would jump by 1.3 billion, assuming we use the same amount of land that we’re using now. Unfortunately, what’s far more likely is that switches to organic farming will result in the creation of new farms via the destruction of currently untouched habitats, thus plowing over the little wild habitat left for many threatened and endangered species… What will happen to what’s left of our planet’s wildlife habitats if we need to mow down another 20% or more of the world’s ice-free land to accommodate for organic methods?”

And:
“What makes organic farming different, then? It’s not the use of pesticides, it’s the origin of the pesticides used. Organic pesticides are those that are derived from natural sources and processed lightly if at all before use. This is different than the current pesticides used by conventional agriculture, which are generally synthetic. It has been assumed for years that pesticides that occur naturally (in certain plants, for example) are somehow better for us and the environment than those that have been created by man. As more research is done into their toxicity, however, this simply isn’t true, either. Many natural pesticides have been found to be potential – or serious – health risks.”

I’m not against organic, per se. Each year I grow (or attempt to grow, I have kind of a brown thumb) some of my own vegetables from Seed Savers’ open-pollinated seed and I grow them without chemicals. But consumers who push for organic, non-GMO produce without being fully informed on both sides of the issue drive unrealistic government regulations and financial stresses on the domestic agrifood industry, which in turn drives retailers to source cheaper produce from overseas in places like China where food safety, workers’ rights, and environmental regulations are all much looser– it’s a cheaper product but it comes at a high cost.

Specialization Is For Insects

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein

Food For Thought: Feasting and Fasting

In her post on the Gospel Coalition blog, “Towards a Theology of Dessert“, Bethany Jenkins shared this quote from Kyle Werner that I really like:

“In the Bible, we see God regularly calling his people to fast and to feast. Through fasting, we learn an increased dependence on God’s strength; our physical appetite helps intensify our spiritual appetite. On the other hand, feasting reminds us of the original goodness and bounty of God’s creation, the redeeming work he is doing, and our fellowship in the body of Christ. Our regular eating routines can benefit greatly by being expanded in both directions through the extremes of these two spiritual disciplines.”