Sharing our design principles for 3D printing and creating 3D printing products. Understanding the basic principles of design leads to better products on the market. 3D print designers should study elements of design in order to make items that people actually want, need, and will buy if the industry is to move forward.
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Design Principles for 3D Printing
We thought we would have a deeper dive discussion into exactly what makes good design and what are some good design principles for 3D printing. We are designers and we talk about it a lot. Some of you might not be designers, but are doing things in 3D printing and wanting to make great designs. How can we help to give you an insight on what makes a design good or not? There is a designer from the 1970’s named Dieter Rams came up with what he believed were his 10 principles of good design. We are going to have a little discussion of each of these principles whether we agree with them or not, and how they may apply to 3D printing.
I want to give a shout out to Make it LEO who had a blog post about this that inspired this debate that we are taking here. They posted some references to projects they thought were good examples of those design points. Not sure that we agree with the examples they posted.
We want to talk about the essence of good design because bringing up that point really does apply to 3D printing and creating design principles for 3D printing. Right now, there is a case of bad design. It is junk and crap. That is what we hear from people with regards to 3D printing. There is a lot of bad design thinking going on right now. There is also absence of design thinking, there is nothing wrong with making something that is engineered. I respect it. It doesn’t mean it is a design or a good design. Let’s get into some of the details. But first, thank you Dieter Rams – wherever you may be.
Dieter Rams specifically says that, “The possibilities for innovation are not by any means exhaustive.” I think that is the point of innovation. It is constantly being reformed by new inputs of data, materials, and technology. Just think about what goes on in the world of music. You have a limited set of notes, and yet, there is so much beautiful music going on out there. Is there an overlap sometimes? Yes. It is the same thing in design. There are so many materials and ways in which you can combine them. Innovation can still truly happen. Good designs searches for that.
If a design is not innovative, it can happen because there are too many restrictions. There are lots of reasons why it doesn’t happen. That is the worst thing that happens is that when something is not innovative, it means that someone lacks the initiative to go and make and to have that creative thought while making it unique. Today we think of designers like it is a bad word in a lot of manufacturing companies. They think of it as complexity and adding time and cost. I think it is the opposite. If you are using a good designer then you make it more valuable.
Look at Apple. There is no way in spending much money of 12 to 15% on revenue on the design of things because it doesn’t matter. It matters at all levels.
2: Good design makes a product useful.
This is one of the most controversial in terms of design principles for 3D printing. There are lots of people that design does not have to be useful. I agree with him. Does it mean that it is exclusively useful? No, that’s not the case. You want to be beautiful and artistic. At the end of the day, it is design versus art. I don’t think that it makes a product useful. I very useful product can be designed to be better, to be more appealing, and to have a more emotional connection with the consumer. But does it make it more useful? I don’t think it always does. I disagree in a technology based world.
Design can get in the way. I don’t agree on other kinds of products. User interfaces are a good example where it does apply; in a physical hard product, not necessarily. On a lot of these principles, I feel better about them by inserting the word good design can make the product useful or more useful. It does not mean a product is not a good design if the design doesn’t make it useful. It may be useful without the design. If you are still learning design, these principles are really a good place to start when you think about design principles for 3D printing.
This is exactly the thing. If you create a sculpture, that is not necessarily designed, that is art. You think about some of the artists we profiled on the podcast before. I think that it is perfectly fine for it not to be useful. It is work of art. What is lacking in many of the objects we see offered up in many of the websites out there is the lack of good design. They may still be functionally useful, but there is a lack of good design there. That is the case even when you are engineering something.
Tom is a better engineer because he has a design focus to begin with. He constantly thinks of things that might detract in using the product and in ways in which they can be using the product. He is thinking about the process of doing it. He is making smart engineering choices along the way. If you are engineering something just to be useful and efficient, you are going to go for what is best in engineering, efficiency, and cost, and what is not necessarily on what is best for the usefulness and the user focus. That is where design plays a bigger role there. In a 3D printing world, having both engineering and designing skills is essential to being successful here.
3: Good design is aesthetic.
This is a little bit more where 3D printing needs to improve and needs to create this as a hard and fast design principles for 3D printing. Feeling something is as important as the aesthetics of something. You have a color pattern texture; all the senses go into aesthetics. When you are missing some of those or they are just not normal to us and they go against how we feel about something, then we are pushing against it. That is why we are having a lack of acceptance. It is the emotional connection that the person experiences by touching the design.
Often, people create a design to be 3D printed. And then, the layer lines are very obvious. People say that is the result of the machine. I think that is no, it is crap. You just accept default instead of making it better. If you apply a nice fine texture to the major flat surfaces of the object that is being 3D printed, you won’t even notice those lines. There are many textures that disguise the lines. Most people think of it as the style and the beauty of something, all of those components go into it. It is so essential that we continue to push the envelope in 3D printing materials technology, and don’t accept the default.
4: Good design makes a product understandable and 5: Good design is unobtrusive.
I think this is a very debateable one in terms of design principles for 3D printing. A good design can make a product understandable or should make it understandable. This is the role of product design. It is neither decorative nor work of art. I don’t know with the definition of unobtrusive. Design just makes something understandable in the sense that you are creating an intuitive sense to how something work. It is making sense on a psychological basis. You know how it works and how it is used. You can have a product that is very complicated to use and the design does not help you to understand it.
Does a good design always have to make it more understandable? Certainly, one of my mentors, Mark Harrison, who designed a food processor for Cuisinart, would be in that camp and say, “It does make it more understandable. Reduce the number of operations to make it a good design.” In general that may be true. But take for example the door handles on a Tesla Model S car. They are flush with the surface. It is a beautiful design element. It doesn’t give you any clue on how to open it up and make it happen. You have to be taught that there is a remote or a certain action you have to do to understand the project that the design is not taking away or adding from.
6: Good design is honest.
I like this one, I buy into this. A good design has integrity and is honest about what it is. A good example of this is a terrible design element was that trend in the 1970s and 1980s where you have vinyl fake wood grain on the side of your car that wasn’t actual wood. There was a time when it was made of wood. It was fine. There is honesty and integrity on that. Now, laminated wood is on the sides of cars function as ornament that is not functional and does not have integrity.
Pictures of wood on non wood are the ones that come into my head, just like paper laminate furniture. When we start to disguise all of that, we lose a lot of connection with our products If it is not transparent and not honest, we lose our trust, and makes it not stick around.
7: The mark of a great design is that it gets used over and over again for generations.
We probably said that in every iteration of our business branding. That a hallmark of our designs if they get bought and used again and again, then we succeed on it. That is our goal. It shouldn’t be a completely throwaway society. We work really hard on products. Even as cheap as they may be, they can be maximized and used as long as possible. If not, then broken down and used in some other way or recycled. It also goes to the design which is being timeless. This is really important. Doing trendy for trend’s sake is marketing. That is not designing.
8: Good design is thorough down to the last detail.
This is a really important design lesson that too many design students don’t learn until the very end. I didn’t learn it until I was out of college from so many that I was working with at the time, like Tod Babick. He instilled to me the last couple percent of design is so critical. He is really good at that. Look at a company like Apple, everything in the business is architected to support design. It is built to do that because designing those details from the last piece of text on a packaging to the way you open it, is the experience of the design. It all informs that. To not think about those details in the processing and take it to that nth degree, loses a lot in translation. It works your work load; if you’ve done it to this point, finish it.
It really means that nothing about the design is arbitrary or left to chance. Everything about the design is the way it is for a specific reason and is a great design principles for 3D printing. That is why your tie is so amazing is because you engineered the support so that it would break off that it would leave the stock support that we default on the printer so often. You designed those in so that it wouldn’t leave that. Taking it all the way is what you should do. When you are, people are amazed on how great it is.
9: Good design is environmentally friendly.
It is great that he was talking on this in the 1970s. It is truer today than ever in terms of design principles for 3D printing. Can you have good design without being environmentally friendly today? Or do you just have products that are made and they are not necessarily good design if they are not environmentally friendly? As a person who is a bit of proponent for sustainable products for design for my entire career, I am struggling whether or not I think it is a hallmark of good design. I think it can’t be good design if it is harmful. If you do harm in the process, then that cannot be good design. I don’t think you want to take that literally and go on using only recycled materials. That is not an absolute necessity. It is not a commandment to me, but if you are doing a harm, then that would be a detriment.
10: Good design is as little design as possible.
This one is controversial because I don’t buy into this one entirely, especially for design principles for 3D printing. There are certainly minimalist design philosophies especially coming out of Europe and have been for decades. I don’t know that it means as little as design as possible. This is a time thing. This is a time warp from the 1970s the time warp form the minimalist design aesthetic. We have a lot of continuing today in our world. Our technology is minimalist in design. There is a place for it. I think if there is an argument for over engineering that I buy into. I think the ultimate goal is to strip down as much as you can without losing the heart and soul of a product because that saves money and makes it less expensive. There is a whole argument for all of those things there. He putting it in as a commandment is more of like a result of that minimalist doing aesthetic that was going on that time.
We are heading back into it as well. We herald that in this time, day and age. From a 3D printing perspective, that is where it gets difficult. To do a really good design, it takes a lot of experience to make something simple. When I look at a design and it is overly complicated and they have too many parts and have all of these things, I say to myself that it is a rookie. That is what I think. Understanding how hard it is to do something simple and doing it really well. This is why we are talking about and raving about the Shotbox in the show is because of that. Because he done something so simple. That is not easy to do.
Final Thoughts on Deither Ram’s 10 Design Principles and Design Principles for 3D Printing
This is a good discussion, I like it. I hope you got something out of these 10 principles in terms of creating some design principles for 3D printing. We didn’t invent these, obviously, these are Deither Ram’s from the 1970’s. It is good food for thought whether you are an experienced designer or an aspiring designer or if you do not know things about these design things. The most important message that transcends all ten of them is that you have to design with thought and care. It is not an accident. It is purposeful. We hope that it helps you to go out there and think about it.
- Dieter Rams: 10 Principles for Good Design
- Dieter Rams Ten Principles of “Good Design” applied to 3D Printing
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