Form Follows Function

When I first became interested in Interior Design, I had a bit of a problem understanding just exactly what “form follows function” meant. (It was said by architect Louis Sullivan in 1896.) It made sense that the function of an item must come first, and the design must come based on the function. For example, a spoon fulfills a certain function, which determines its shape. If you mess with the shape too much, you loose the functionality. 

When I worked at Chintz and Company in Calgary we fabulous flatware; it was expensive but each pattern was unusual and a work of art. The hand-forged handles on one pattern ended in a flat spiral resembling a Fiddlehead fern. The only problem was that the spiral interfered with the balance of the piece; they were difficult to hold and using the knife was almost impossible

  We had another set with a 3-D raised floral design on the back of the handle. In order to display this wonderful design, the table flatware had to be set with the tines and the bowls ‘inside out’ and the knife blades pointed the wrong way. They were also very difficult to hold, but they looked great!

And then we have things like high-heeled shoes. Really high-heeled shoes. The reason for these things is form, it certainly is not function. The function of a shoe, after all, is to protect the foot as we walk or run and we can’t do either in some of these shoes.

I drive a Toyota car. My understanding is that the design engineers of this car drafted the interior first and made the shell fit that. For this reason, a 6-foot 2-inch person will not bang their head on the roof if we go over a bump. I can actually get into the back seat with the vacuum cleaner without twisting myself into knots. The instrument panel is positioned so I don’t have to shift my glasses up and down to read the display. Just lots of little things that make the car exceptionally functional for me, and it doesn’t look bad either.

I have found that most things in the design world that function well have a pleasing appearance, but many things that look good may not function well at all. Those things that succeed in interpreting “form follows function”  tend to be classic pieces and tend to last longer than the faddy things that just look good. Because form must also include longevity.

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