A couple of years ago, we stumbled across a design philosophy that’s become a rule not only for product development, but the way we live.
Less, but better.
This philosophy was coined by Dieter Rams, a German born architect come industrial designer who worked at Braun between 1955 - 1995. He is responsible for some of the most timeless product designs the world has ever seen, from the Braun SK-4 record player to the Vitsoe 606 shelving system.
He has been named as the single most important source of inspiration to many prominent design leads, including Tom Murdoch (extremely famous design lead for Dirt detergent) and Jony Ive (less importantly, Apple’s head of design).
Throughout his five decade career, Rams spent much time publicly ruminating over the question, 'what makes good design?’. In the 70’s he observed that design had become “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises”. He worried that this was causing people to make short-sighted choices. He didn’t want his team to contribute to this culture, so developed a couple of principles of good design as a guide.These evolved over time to become ‘The ten principles of good design’, which in summation equal less but better (you can see the principles below).
So why, as laundry detergent people, have we become cliche Dieter Rams groupies?
When we started to float this laundry detergent idea amongst ourselves, we questioned how much room for improvement existed in the laundry department aisle. Plenty we concluded, not just from the manufacturers, but from us, people who wash our clothes.
Detergents are unnecessary diluted. This is because we feel like we need a lot of detergent to wash our clothes, especially if they’re dirty - when in actual fact if you put too much detergent in your machine, you’re actually reducing its performance.
Over time, detergent manufacturers have adapted their formulas to make sure we can put in as much as we feel we need to get our clothes clean. We guarantee if you hold a bottle of Dirt next to a bottle of standard liquid detergent your first reaction will be, why am I paying more for less. That’s just some good old trickery from your brain, you’re likely paying less for more.
There’s another flow on effect from using more liquid to wash. You need more packaging. We melted down 4 bottles of detergent and discovered that on average, they use 90% more plastic than we do. While it’s not yet viable to enclose liquid without plastic, we could be using so much less if we just allowed ourselves to believe we only need a little bit of detergent.
We wont go on, but as you can imagine, from logistics to waste, the ‘bigger’ your bottle, the greater the impact on the planet.
If you want to reduce your footprint, or just become known as a smarty clean pants, we encourage you to read all the labels, and try and let the instructions (not your feels) govern how many chemicals you are using in the household department. And of course, buy Dirt Laundry detergent.
Now, those design principles we talked about.
- is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
- makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
- 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.
- 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.
- is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
- 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.