design, development, research, & analysis

Allen’s Design Principles

Here is my take on ten personal design principles (riffing on Dieter Rams).


A well-designed object or interaction should be —


present & ready to use when needed, but not draw unnecessary, nonfunctional attention to itself.

Brilliantly Useful

— not only exceptionally useful, but exhibit its functionality in an invigorating or delightful way.

Environmentally Sound

— mindful of its place in the larger world, not wasting excessive resources.


— able to offer something new, push boundaries, & stand out.

… yet Informed by Tradition

— at the same time, clearly aware of its place in a tradition, following established lines as much as possible & invoking expectations.

Encouraging of Creativity & Exploration

— aiming to augment the user’s ideas, push the user’s curiosity about the world, or teach something to the user.

Graceful in Failure

— readable, providing feedback to the user on what went wrong, why, & what can be done to fix it; if at all possible, don’t freeze, force a restart, or add weighty complexity. All things fail, but a well-designed object should fail gracefully.

Accessible & Affordable

— as accessible as possible to as many people as possible, without unduly diluting its features & quality.

Aesthetically Composed

holistically beautiful. Each of its parts should contribute to the pleasure of the whole. As Aristotle says, every element of a work should be intertwined, so “if some part is moved or taken away, the whole is disturbed & destroyed” (Poetics 1451a, my translation).

Inviting & Intuitive

— as easy to use as possible, without reducing required operational complexity or power, while also seeming easy to use from the outside; built to require as little introduction as possible, standing on its own terms & usable in its own right.