We were invited to give a presentation during the fourth installment of the inaugural PechaKucha Night Rapid City series. It was fun for us to present our slides at Murphy’s - a place we are proud to have worked on - since we were planning to speak about design.
The following images and text are excerpted from our presentation on Good Design.
We want to chat about Good Design - because we believe that good design is everywhere, and it’s affordable. It’s not a luxury and it’s not exclusively for the elites. And good design has to add something - has to have value. So we’ll talk about how and why we see value in Good Design.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, we decided to do what every good designer does - borrow from the people we really admire. Dieter Rams was a German industrial designer who was the head of design at Braun for over 30 years (1961-1995). In the late 1970s, he authored his “Ten Principles for Good Design,” which we will use as the basis for our presentation.
1. Good design is innovative
2. Good design makes a product useful
You know when your office gets shingled with colorful squares of paper? They may be aesthetic (in many ways), but they are useful and innovative at the same time. The not-so-permanent glue was initially a useless innovation, until a 3M scientist used it as a bookmark, discovering a practical and new idea - The Post-It Note.
3. Good design is aesthetic
4. Good design makes a product understandable
5. Good design is unobtrusive
6. Good design is honest
The qualities of design affect our person and our well-being. Something pleasant is appealing and it affects our mood - in a GOOD way! Something unpleasant is (in the voice of The Dude) like… a bummer, man. Something well-designed is self-explanatory - you know what it’s used for. Good design is neutral and restrained - what you see is what you get.
7. Good design is long-lasting
8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail
In today’s ‘throwaway society’, it is rare to see designs last through time. However, the Eiffel Tower is an excellent example of graceful, timeless design. The care and accuracy exercised throughout the engineering design process, are clear and obvious. It avoids being fashionable and therefore, never appears outdated.
9. Good design is environmentally-friendly - Designers need to consider the lifecycle of a product.
10. Good design is as little design as possible
I love this diagram. We borrowed it from the blog Coffee with an Architect.
We think it gets right to the point and it’s very clear. It speaks of what happens when you have all three elements: beauty, function and economy working together - but also what happens when one of the elements is missing.
What makes something possess the quality of beauty? Beauty is a combination of the design elements, like shape, form, and color; which altogether, are aesthetically pleasing to the senses, especially sight. Beauty creates responsiveness and motivation. Most importantly, beauty is appealing and can be appreciated.
If something functions, it fulfills a certain task. Very functional products are designed to perform in a way to meet very specific requirements - an advanced jet-plane that can fly a certain altitude or a certain speed, or a specialized suit, so that life can be sustained in space
Economy is about things being affordable, accessible and attainable. It’s about being for the masses, and being mass-produced. Are the materials accessible, and is the product easy to assemble? Economy is about dollars and cents, but it also is part of a holistic approach to design.
When BEAUTY and FUNCTION are the only two factor in the equation, the design is just an IDEA. When one takes ECONOMY out of the math, feasibility is in danger - and the design is a pie in the sky. If it can’t be built or manufactured, then this idea is nothing more than a sketch on a napkin.
This Frank Gehry project, featuring 16 towers and a basketball arena, was never realized, because the developer deemed the project to be too expensive. The mixed-use project can be considered beautiful and it included several useful functions. But, it remained an idealistic project because it was not economical to construct.
When BEAUTY and ECONOMY are the only two factor in the equation, the design is DISPOSABLE. When one takes FUNCTION out of the equation, there’s no permanence. Architecture is a permanent art. The Murphy’s building was built in 1910 - and it’s still standing because it was useful and valuable to the clients and the city.
Disposable design is not built to last. Consider the Burnham Pavilions in Chicago. Designed to be temporary, they are made to appeal to the public with attention to “short-term convenience”.
When FUNCTION and ECONOMY are the only two factor in the equation, the design is BORING. The solution is entirely utilitarian - it can be well engineered and feasible, but there’s always something lacking. There’s no appeal to the senses. When one takes BEAUTY out of the math, what happens?
Self-storage units. Decidedly not beautiful - at least not in our encounters. They function as places to hold extra stuff, and basic storage units are simple and economical to construct. Without analyzing the symptoms of consumer culture, I think we can agree that storage units represent boring design.
When all 3 meet - Beauty, Function + Economy = Good design
When all 3 of the elements meet, we get Good Design - something that is aesthetically pleasing, something that works as it should, and something that can be afforded.
A beautiful design that doesn’t work and that no one can afford is an unrealized napkin sketch. An elegant space that no one uses is wasted space and wasted energy. Good design is timeless not only in beauty and style, but also in function. THIS building, the original shell - has been here for 104 years - it worked well enough to survive floods, keep harsh winters out, and sustain constant use. It also survived various uses: originally a car garage, later on a Montgomery Ward store, and for many years a rather shady local watering hole - before it was turned into this version of Murphy’s.
But good design goes further than that too - if the waiters bump into each other, if there’s not enough space for a good table - then the space doesn’t work for it’s use. So in the end we think that Murphy’s succeeds because it functions as a kitchen, restaurant and bar - it appeals to people, they like coming here and meeting their friends. The clients were able to accomplish their goals and make the space profitable.