Form & Function

is form follwed by the function in our present designs or does the function is followed by the form for the design.
This topic was raised in my class of 15 students. which resulted in a great debate but we still didnt came to the conclusion.
Does this sentence has a relation with design history or is it which can be never understood and never concluded.
Shall be waitin for the replies.

It depends on the project. That is why you are having a difficult time deciding.

There are basically three ways that designers add value to a project. The first should be a constant: enhance the aesthetic appeal of the object (Although I’ve seen a student project that introduced their design: “I found that aesthetics is not that important for this product category”).

This value is often the only value in the celebrity designer products (ie Karim Rashid, Michael Graves, etc). The user values these objects because of the aesthetic and enjoy the functionality as an added bonus, when it is present.

The second value is that of functionality, human factors or ergonomics. Basically making the product as easy to use as possible. Making the interfaces clearly communicate information to the user. Sometimes making the mechanical bits of the design function more smoothly.

You’ll find this second value in products like Fiskars scissors and Apple MacIntosh. Note that both products are also very well designed aesthetically. Whether in the design the aesthetic followed the function depends on what the design team decided was most important. Fiskars scissors form clearly follows the function of a comfortable grip. The Apple cases don’t need to be functional, so act more as an attractive invitation to the user.

The last value we can add is the one used most seldom: developing breakthrough products. By this I mean a product that either totally changes the way a product functions, or introduces a new product that hasn’t existed before. Think of the Zip drive or maybe the new life-straw talked about here.

The reason it is used less often is simply because it costs more money and it involves more risk. Manufacturers would prefer to enhance the product they already have than risk themselves on a new product.

…this mantra does not mean that for any given function there is one form…form compliments or enhances function for the user…one form doesn’t usually satisfy all users.