Ten Anti-Principles of Good Design

I saw this tweet forever ago and thought “hey, that’d be kinda fun to write that...”:

I’m thinking about making an anti list of Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles for Good Design, with things like “Let the a/b tests decide it” and “Roll it back if the KPIs suffer”.

I wrote this post up as satire, but never published it because I realized it could be misconstrued as cynical and I didn’t want to be cynical and critical. Being critical is easy. “Can you build up rather than tear down?” So I never published.

Fast-forward a couple years, I ran across this cobwebbed post in my drafts and rediscovered the element of humor I found in it—humor borne out of a real confrontation with the realities of the world. Not a reality based in the evil intentions of humans, but rather the messiness of our nature. Doing hard things is hard, and along the way we quite often fail as humans. The fact is, sometimes we just don’t live up to our expectations, however lofty. And sometimes, if you can’t laugh at your reality, however failing, then all you’re left with is cynicism.

So with that preface, I present: Ten Anti-Principles of Good Design, riffing from Dieter Ram’s Ten principles of good design. I would hope that you, dear reader, find an element of relatable humor in them and not a critical cynicism. Good Design™ strives against the entropy of the universe, so it will forever be an uphill battle requiring exertion and energy to achieve It.

1. Good design is innovative fashionable

Technological advancement is always revealing opportunities for new design. As technology progresses and innovates, the best way to design for it is to use whatever is in vogue, that way people take notice.

2. Good design makes a product useful sexy

A product is meant to be looked at. Good design slaps fresh paint on it, instilling desire into those who see it.

Also, sex.

3. Good design is aesthetic

And aesthetics are determined by data, not taste.

4. Good design makes a product understandable through explanation

A product should be self-explanatory, and by self-explanatory I mean it should explain itself. Slap some words in there because words are cheap. Just litter the thing with tooltips. Do everything but understand and take apart the complexity of your business that filters into your software.

5. Good design is unobtrusive

A product should be used exactly the way you designed it to be used. Heavy-handed tactics are employed to make any other use of it impermissible.

6. Good design is (dis)honest

As in, we use dark-patterns to influence people to do things in a way that will improve our bottom line.

7. Good design is long-lasting

But not too long-lasting. People need to keep consuming or we’ll go out of business.

8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail

But also we have to ship shit, so you can disregard this principle as needed.

9. Good design is environmentally-friendly

But only really when “environmentally-friendly” is cost-effective, meaning marketable and sellable.

10. Good design is as little design as possible

...but we hired all these designers, and we gotta get our money’s worth. So slap some more “design” on there.