Well, yeah! Of course it is. Out of all of Dieter Rams famous Principles for Good Design, this maxim is the most seemingly obvious. A long working life with a focus on quality over fashion are ideals that lots of designers (and consumers) look for.

 

Scratch the statement a little though and it proves one of the hardest to untangle and to apply to modern design. For a start it presupposes that there are agreed or measurable standards of ‘good’ and ‘long lasting’, when there are, as Rams knew, no such things. What’s more, long lasting good design means different things to different designers, working across different mediums and in different periods.

 

The full principle reads:

 

“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.”

 

How many brands manage this? Not, for instance, Apple (whom Rams believes are the organisation that follows his principles best), with their yearly must-own hardware updates. Surely the onward rush of technology means this idea itself was never likely to last long. When core functionality is forever on the verge of being rendered obsolete, core design is going to struggle to maintain relevancy or length of service.

 

Some mediums last longer than others, no matter how nuanced and ‘timeless’ the design. These ghost signs will last longer than any modern billboard. Just about any book will last longer than this webpage. The Google doc this post has been written on won’t last as long as the essays I wrote for my history GCSE fifteen years ago. Digital formats don’t last as long, and have less value, no matter the the relative quality of the content of those (awful, awful) essays and this blog post.

 

Modern formats are by their nature more ephemeral and more likely to be ‘thrown away’. And yet, we believe the onus is on the designer (no matter the format) to work harder than ever to create design that transcends fashion, proving easy to use now and for as long as the technology holding it will allow.

 

Mandy Brown (Director of Platform at media brand Voxproduct) encapsulates how we feel about this: “…perhaps instead long lasting can now be measured not only in years, but in minds—not in how long an object persists, but in how many people it changes.”

 

The goal-posts might have moved, but design, not driven by fashion but a desire for lasting usefulness is still a principle to adhere to if we are to deliver a product that provides value, ‘changes people’ and gets them to act.