An age old simple question that often results complex answers. But when you peel the idea and stare at the core of the question you can find some pretty uncomplicated ways to describe the goodness of the big D.
Two loose frameworks that I’ve found interesting, approach the question very practically and suggest that there are simple profound elements that go beyond the tired industrial design driven definitions and actually have the potential to make design better at large, sometimes even good.
Marty Neumeier’s definition for good design in his book The Designful Company is that it exhibits good old-fashioned virtues like generosity, courage, diligence, honesty, substance, clarity, curiosity, thriftiness, and wit. By contrast, Marty explains, bad design exhibits human vices like selfishness, fear, laziness, deceit, pettiness, confusion, apathy, wastefullness, and stupidity. Clever, ha? The beauty is in the elegance of his explanation, hands down.
Another list of attributes comes from Metropolis Magazine’s March 2009 issue focusing on defining good design. Their definitions for good D are that it’s sustainable, accessible, functional, well made, emotionally resonant, enduring, socially beneficial, beautiful, ergonomic, and affordable. This is a pretty basic way to put it but there’s a lot of good thinking and discussion within and beyond the categories. Worth checking out, too.