Form Feeding Function

Form vs Function is an old debate, stemming from items being designed to be beautiful over being able to function efficiently. The quintessential example is a door concealong its use in favour of sweeping vistas of uninterrupted glass.

Form needn’t be in competition with function; indeed, form is an essential part of function in many cases. Well fitted, beautiful clothes are a tour de force in form, but the very form is part of function: to flatter the wearer. In a different sphere, the form and elegance in OS X has the functional aspect of making the system seem solid and well engineered.

Studies showing positive effects of aesthetic qualities on people’s happiness when using an item add weight to the view of form and function as inseparable. If a device is intended to aid you, allowing you to complete a task with greater pleasure is surely a functional benefit, but one which stems from the object’s form. An item which raises a smile each time you use it due to its design and beauty is a triumph of form improving function.

Form and function are not orthogonal, instead each feeds into the other. Form does triumph over function on occasion, form then having a negative effect on function. The converse, however, is the more important: that the two are not necessarily in competition, that there need not be a compromise. In addition to the commonly bemoaned negative effects on function, form can bequeath incredibly positive functional benefits.

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