Ever since the phrase ‘form follows function’ was coined in 1896 and more so since the creation of the Bauhaus, it has been believed by many that the less is more approach is the best way to go about design. That, if you make a product to do its sole purpose, with no bells and whistles and just the bare bones of design, that that is good design. Now I am not saying that this is wrong or that it is a bad thing, that style of design has its own merits and its own place in the timeline of design. But I believe that the form of a design can help the functionality of the product. There are a number of aspects to take into consideration with this subject, what is the product? Is the form a part of its function? The ergonomics of a product and how are people intended to interact with the product?
An example of how form helps function could be: you have a chair that was simple and functional in design, but would it be comfortable? Wouldn’t a chair design that has taken comfort into account and has a form that was comfortable be a better product? During this essay I intend to look at a variety of different products and situations where the form of a product is an integral part of its overall design and function to show how form helps function rather than the form being an afterthought. Let us begin with a brief step by step on how some aspects of form help the function of a product, shall we? * Size > heavier > stronger > longer lasting (durable) > a better product. * Size > lighter > moveable > more travel friendly > a better product. * Shape > ergonomics > ease of use > a better product. * Interaction > understandable > self-explanatory > ease of use > a better product. * Interaction > hardness/softness > comfort > a better product
As you can see there are a number of things that can be taken into account with the form of a product that will benefit the overall function of it. But these are not all of them, far from it, there are other aspects that indicate that form helps function, so let’s take a look at some of those now. What is the product? It is a bit of a broad question when you think of everything as a product of something else. But in the context of how form helps function I mean what is the product and how is it used? The product in question could very well be a table, we all know what a table looks like and we can picture it in our minds eye. Like a carpenter we could take that idea of a table and turn it into a real tangible object from just a block of wood. A table is defined as ‘a piece of furniture having a smooth flat top that is usually supported by one or more vertical legs’.
But this doesn’t necessarily have to be true, a table could be suspended from above removing the need for legs, or perhaps it could simply be the block of wood that the carpenter would carve from with a smoothed out top surface.
[ 1 ]. The Shape of Things: A Philosophy of Design, V, Flusser, 1999, p24 [ 2 ]. http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=table [ 2 ]. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washitsu [ 3]. Droog & Dutch Design, Centraal Museum, 2000, p103 [ 4 ]. Ergonomic Seating; A True Challenge, B, Engstrom, 2002 [ 6 ]. http://bestergonomickeyboard.org/the-benefits-of-an-ergonomic-split-keyboard/ [ 7 ]. http://www.flixxy.com/minority-report-interface.htm