Co.Design

A Weather App Based Upon Dieter Rams’s 10 Principles Of Design

What’s it tell you? Just everything you need.

On one hand, it’s a bold claim to say you’ve designed an app around Dieter Rams’s famed 10 Principles of Design. And on the other, how could you design an app otherwise?

WTHR is an iPhone weather app ($1) by David Elgena that scales the entire experience of weather down to one page. There are no settings screens, no ads, no weather radars, and no chances of rain. It’s a single screen experience--an absurd rarity, you realize, as soon as you load it. And you’ll never need to push any buttons.

Instead, a dial spins to the forecast of the day, showing an icon of clouds, sun, or rain. Simple typopgrahy says the forecast in as few words as possible: “Cloudy & 77°.” Below that, you can see the seven-day forecast. And below that, a simple toggle: F° to C°.

The Rams comparisons are by no means subtle--the minimal, white dial and switch feels like it could be lifted from a Rams design--but the app does follow the 10 principles. It’s innovative (there is no weather app like it), it’s useful (it’s a weather forecast), it’s aesthetic (it’s unmistakably styled), and … well, we don’t need to go through all the points.

Remarkably, the iPhone weather app of choice is becoming a harder and harder decision. It’s almost like the burger has become to haute chefs, a universally understood template from which to riff for the masses. We’ve seen apps that tell the weather through clothing, or tell the temperature to the moment. Heck, we’ve even seen apps that make you "feel" the temperature.

All of these are good ideas from a design standpoint. Most would hold up well to Rams’s scrutiny. But whether or not any of them can permeate our collective consciousness, I’m curious. Despite having tested several weather apps on Co.Design, I find myself defaulting to the horrendously ugly, overloaded Weatherbug. And it’s for one reason, and one reason only: It’s the only source I’ve found that pulls the weather from a station a few blocks away. Living on Chicago’s lakefront, this microclimate is a strange thing to define, and is often dramatically different than anywhere else in the city.

For me, all of these apps miss the single most important part of weather predictions: The promise of accuracy. They exude ease of use, but at the same expense as a beauty queen in a swimsuit competition--I won’t take anything pretty seriously that hasn’t first won over my skeptical nature. Even if all weather reports are a bit bogus--or maybe because of it--it’s possible that the primary approach to weather app design shouldn’t be beauty or ease of use. Maybe it should first be trustability, and the rest should follow from there.

[Hat tip: mocoloco]

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29 Comments

  • Vitsœ

    The Dieter Rams image you use was taken by Anne Brassier for Vitsoe. Please credit photographers, and where possible request usage.

    Thanks.

  • Lela Feldmeier

    I can't make any comments on the usefulness of the app with regards to weather accuracy, however I do like the overall design whether it is functional or not. Sure, tweaks can be made to make it more effective, and sure it probably doesn't follow all of the 10 principles. The design in itself may not be flash or even exciting, but overall the design is easy enough to understand and is very streamlined. It seems like an app suited for Apple products.

  • al dean

    What would Deiter Rams do? Use this? Probably not. He'd look out the window. Then get on with something vague useful that doesn't hide the key point (that the forecast is) and promote what's, frankly, bleeding obvious.

  • KarlTiggs

    This app may follow Dieter's principles, but the skeumorphism such as the color aux plastic textured buttons fails.  Tom Hobbs hits it right on the head with his critique of Apple's skeuomorphism in its app design. It is making designers think within the box of the familiar (i.e. real world objects) rather than true useable design. Sadly, 3rd party app must also follow along with this skeumorphism so as to not look and feel out of place.

    What makes this app compelling is that it mimics the Dieter Rams design, not through a novel UI design, but by mimicing a design of a physical product if it were to  exist.

  • A.J. Kandy

    Typographically, the super-thin fonts and really low contrast of lettering to background makes this incredibly hard to read. If I have to expend more physical and cognitive effort to use a product, then it's not well-designed at all. 

    The best weather app would be one that's useful without even having to launch it; with an icon that automatically updates to show the current local conditions as an unmistakable icon (white on black background, simple, not overdesigned), plus the temperature as a notification badge (with F/C prefs set during setup, as other commenters have noted). 

    The app itself should basically just display a HUGE graphic that you can read across the room for its main screen - then let you drill down to daytime/evening, forecast, etc. 

    Beyond Dieter Rams and Braun, it's worth looking at Otl Aicher's pictograms and signage for the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Those are still iconic and worth emulating today. 

  • Brian

    I'll be the first to admit that I often reference Dieter Rams in talking about the qualities in design I appreciate most, but I'm getting sick of companies and journalists using his name to generate sales and traffic. 

    This app is one of the worst examples of skeuomorphism I've seen yet. It doesn't even come close to embodying Rams' principles of design. 

    Just look at those drop shadows man! An app designed to look like a Braun appliance from the 60s is not the kind of design we should be championing people.

  • KarlTiggs

    I agree that it is the worst example of skeuomorphis, but I would happily choose 60s design over the stuff they have us looking at now.

  • EtotheZ

    Very pretty app, but by my count this one only gets 3/10 on the Dieter scale:

    ✖ Is innovative - There are many weather apps out there, and many are 1-screen designs
    ✖ Makes a product useful - Most of the angry reviews on iTunes are complaining about inaccuracy, which (as you stated) is a pretty big miss in a weather app
    ✓ Is aesthetic - It's definitely a nice looking app
    ✓ Makes a product understandable - By showing both a sun icon AND the word "Sunny", its purpose is quite clear
    ✓ Is unobtrusive - It would be hard to feel obtrused by this incredibly neutral app
    ✖ Is honest - (See inaccuracy issues)
    ✖ Is long-lasting - Between the inaccuracy, not remembering the user's F/C settings, and continuing to use GPS in the background...this app may not last long on people's iPhones.
    ✖ Is thorough down to the last detail - Attention down to small visual details doesn't count if the first big details are missed  
    ✖ Is environmentally friendly - Wasting energy by unnecessarily running the GPS while backgrounded is the worst thing an iPhone app could possibly do to the environment
    ✖ Is as little design as possible - The F / C switch could have been omitted by using the user's locale settings and providing the option within Settings.app, the app could have used either an icon or word to represent the weather but used both, and the refresh button could have been easily left out

  • Dominique James

    I know we are focused on design, but I think you should know by now that it does't do its one and only job very well. It doesn't report the weather accurately. Of course, we can blame it on the API. In any case, it's a pity that something so beautiful is also something not good.

  • Snydal

    Beautiful. But F/C should not be on the surface of the app. It is not something you need to use more than once in your lifetime, so why is it taking up 15% of the screen, always. 

  • samrzrkat

    This app is riddled with assumptions that only the designer fully understands: when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me;

    Weather is tricky: to be useful, an app is better off providing enough detail to reduce uncertainty: this app promises to add another layer of uncertainty instead.

  • designsparetime

    I would argue that this app fundemantally fails several of the ten principles, namely:

    - Good design makes a product useful
    - Good design is unobtrustive
    - Good design is long-lasting

    It may superficially look like a Dieter Rams real-world product, but it does very little to embody his principles.

  • Matt Kump?

    This feels as though the designer googled 'Dieter Rams 10 Principles" then switched to image search. Rams inspired style, but not design.