The new Kindle looks great: Simple, functional, and pretty. It looks like Amazon got a few clues from Apple and Braun's design guidelines. But does it comply with Dieter Rams' 10 rules for good design?
Dieter Rams is the design guru who was responsible for some of the most amazing product designs of the 20th century, while he was working at Braun. He and his 10 rules of good design are one of the biggest influences of Jon Ive, the head of design at Apple. Here are the 10 rules:
Good design is innovative.
It's hardly to be innovative when your product is an evolution of a previous generation. The first Kindle, though aesthetically horrible, was innovative. The new Kindle 2 doesn't introduce anything new from the previous generation or similar products.
Good design makes a product useful.
The new keys, both the round ones on the keyboard and the one on the sides, seem a lot better than the old ones. I would have preferred a full touch interface, since text input is not that important and it would simplify the interface to the minimum expression: A simple white, thin slate with a screen. However, I imagine there are price and screen-readability constrains that make this impossible.
Good design is aesthetic.
The simple white, the position of the keys, the aluminium back, the thinness... maybe you think the new Kindle looks great because the old one looked like crap, but the Kubrick's 2001'ish design is pretty on its own.
Good design helps us to understand a product.
The new Kindle is easy to understand. Anyone would be able to figure it out by just holding in their hands. Not as easy as figuring out how to read a real book, but good enough for a piece of electronics.
Good design is unobtrusive.
It also passes this test. The screen, which holds the object of interest, is the centerpiece, the focus of the product. The design doesn't get in the way of its objective, to let you read. Still it's not as unobtrusive as a paper book, but as good as it can get this side of a pure touchscreen product.
We still have to try the new 5-way controller, however, and see how it lives up to the claim of enabling precise navigation and text selection. With the scroll wheel gone, a touch or pen interface would have been the more natural way to perform these functions.
Good design is honest.
No thrills, no frills, no artificial ornaments. This product comes naked, as it is, as honest as it can get.
Good design is durable.
Looking at our hands on, the drop test at Amazon's product page, and the previous generation, it looks like the new Kindle is a solid product. Actually, that aluminium back makes it look like it is even more solid.
Good design is consequent to the last detail.
Its coherence is clear in the whole hardware design, although we haven't seen many of the other details yet, like the accessories and the packaging.
Pass (pending the final hands on.)
Good design is concerned with the environment.
Although we haven't found any information about the materials used in the Kindle and its packaging, this has to be one of the greenest products there is. Whatever they use for making them, it's outweighed by the savings on trees, chemicals, and water used in the production of real books, printed on both new and recycled paper.
Good design is as little design as possible.
Again, the design of the Kindle 2.0 is as minimalist as it can get working against the limitations of not having a touchscreen.
While it doesn't pass all the rules, overall the new Kindle's design is a success. It looks good, it's as simple as it can get with the current technology-price limitations, and it just works.