Friday, 10 September 2010

Day 253, on which John discusses form and function again [10.9.10]

Dag to hundrede treoghalvtreds. It's only a day until the ninth anniversary of 9/11. Eek. Well, we'll cover that topic tomorrow no doubt. There's been a truckload of depressing documentaries on Channel 4 about it (they just keep churning them out), so one more day of watching them may provoke a post about the events of 2001. Perhaps. We'll see whether another source of inspiration finds me. I'm posting late again; I know. Only 20 minutes to get this post done. Gawsh.

Form and function. Those two contrasting concepts that are at the basis of all design. ALL design. No exceptions. Every designer has their own ideas about what should come first, form or function. Here's the clincher: studies have shown that using a product that looks nice can actually subconsciously make it easier to use. That's right. If a product has good aesthetics, users will perceive it as easier to use and it'll be a better product.

Let's take an example. A Danish example. A Jacobsen example. Because I'm in that mood. Below, you can see a photo of the handle Arne designed for the Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, one of his best works (though sadly he died before it was finished and his mates completed it for him):

There it is. Schmexy, huh? Jacobsen has done what all other Danish designers have done in the past and followed the Scandinavian rule of design: purity of form. That's it. That's all Scandinavian design is about; those three words. Purity. Of. Form. Kjærholm, Jacobsen, Panton, IKEA, Aarnio, Saarinen, all the others. This is the principle they worked on, though sometimes not being consciously aware of it.

So what does purity of form mean? It means the design is stripped to its very essentials, the elements which it needs to function: here, a place to hold the handle and a hinge. Then the elements are reviewed and the designer find a way to combine them together into one connected, flowing shape. That's all there is to it. And here, Jacobsen has perfectly balanced the function of the handle, and its key elements, with aesthetics, thus creating a beautifully shaped handle.

Purity of form.

That is all.

~John

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