A few thoughts on form

July 21st, 2016, 1:05 pm

bcpid
step four
step four
Posts: 397
Joined: March 20th, 2004, 8:26 pm
Throughout my career, I've increasingly come to the conclusion that the more I can focus on proportion and the elimination of as many design elements as possible, and the less I can focus on form (except for trying to reduce or simplify and universalize the form as much as possible / kill decorative elements or anything that would constitute fashion) the better off most designs will be. Early on I used to see complex shapes, or crazy, vehicle-inspired or heavily sculptural forms as something to aspire to, but today I find almost anything more than bare minimalism and reduction, reduction, reduction to be inappropriate for most products that need to live in a variety of settings for any length of time. It's almost like how much can you make the product disappear. I feel like products should almost always be visually simplified to an extent that you aren't compounding the clutter problem people already have. Also re form, how much can you design something that once its life as whatever it is now ends, it can easily be repurposed for some other use because it uses common shapes, materials, and assembly processes. It really bothers me when you have an object that because of its esoteric shape or design specificity, is impossible to repurpose.

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 21st, 2016, 11:25 pm

User avatar
yo
Administration
Administration
Posts: 17282
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 6:57 pm
Coroflot: 67242
Location: SoCal
Are you thinking from the POV of a designer and a designer's tastes, or from the POV of the target user of the product?

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 22nd, 2016, 11:46 am

John_Mauriello
step one
step one
Posts: 47
Joined: June 24th, 2015, 6:41 pm
I do not agree with this sentiment. Your version of minimalism does not always address a user's emotional needs/wants. Evocative forms do. That doesn't mean you have to design a bunch of swoopy forms, but it does mean that you need to consider the emotional element when designing most consumer products.

A very good proof of this is the car market. A honda civic is a great car by most practical metrics. It's reliable, gets great gas mileage, and accelerates reasonably fast enough for all but the most extreme practical purposes. A BMW 328i is almost twice as expensive, is way less reliable, gets worse gas mileage, more expensive to maintain, etc. etc. But if you asked most people which car they'd rather have if money was no object, they'd say the BMW. The reason for that is because it's emotionally more fulfilling to own one. They're more fun to drive, they look way cooler, they have a bunch of very nice features (that are by and large unnecessary), and they're a status symbol.

I don't think that this is always the right way to make choices (sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't), but it's how people behave and it should not be ignored.

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 22nd, 2016, 1:52 pm

User avatar
KenoLeon
full self-realization
full self-realization
Posts: 698
Joined: October 23rd, 2012, 12:22 pm
Location: Mexico City
I am not entirely in disagreement, but think it'a a bit simplistic to think in this one dimensional form, consider the following:

Form follows function and less is more right ? But what happens when part of that function is differentiating itself from other forms ? And doesn't quantity have a quality of it's own ?

I think every design has qualities beyond it's form and function, there's the context in which it was made and used, shouldn't that be included if we are to correctly judge a design ?
Eugenio (Keno) Leon
k3no.com Linkedin Instagram

"Go where you are celebrated, not merely tolerated"

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 22nd, 2016, 7:18 pm

Jimbo
Posts: 3
Joined: January 13th, 2016, 12:15 am
We have a studio joke/truism, "I could have made it simpler, but I didn't have enough time and we ran out of cash."

We start with the emotional content, the backstory— stuff we don't tell the client, but how we bring ourselves to the project. We look at different forms, make our choices and start developing. Along the way we throw out everything we can, trying to hit that iconic note— concept made tangible, without the embroidery.

I'm sure others have different feelings about it, but this is what works for us. We use it to find the common thread sometimes— the intersection of traditional Japanese and Shaker design, for instance. A Contemporary take on Queen Anne. Not Donald Judd-style minimalism, but reducing to the essence, and comparing essences.

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 24th, 2016, 8:26 am

User avatar
cwatkinson
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 353
Joined: October 8th, 2015, 11:43 am
Here are a few reference images i have had for a long time and still even today use them.

I wish i could give credit to the original creator but i cant even remember where i got the images from, if i recall they where handed down.
car_reflection.jpg
car_reflection.jpg (120.68 KiB) Viewed 6725 times
cone_reflection.jpg
cone_reflection.jpg (92.81 KiB) Viewed 6725 times
cylinder_cube.jpg
cylinder_cube.jpg (90.18 KiB) Viewed 6725 times

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 24th, 2016, 8:27 am

User avatar
cwatkinson
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 353
Joined: October 8th, 2015, 11:43 am
One more.....
flat_reflections.jpg
flat_reflections.jpg (134.68 KiB) Viewed 6724 times

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 24th, 2016, 8:29 am

User avatar
cwatkinson
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 353
Joined: October 8th, 2015, 11:43 am
opps, meant to post this in the "sketching frustration" topic.... sorry.

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 24th, 2016, 8:37 am

enjey_w
step one
step one
Posts: 41
Joined: March 2nd, 2013, 1:03 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Haha cwatkinson, your first image had just enough of a reference to the modification of form for me to spend the next few minutes fruitlessly trying to work out how the other images related to determining form.

@Jimbo, a rather excellent designer's variation on Blaise Pascal's quote "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." Ultimately very true though methinks; it's often easier to add things like ornamentation to hide a poor core execution.

On a side note, I've been recently reading through the Design of Everyday things, and Norman's discussion of signifiers seems pertinent here; sometimes a completely minimalistic form doesn't adequately convey to a user exactly how they're supposed to use a product. Off the top of my head, a USB plug is a pretty good example - its completely rectangular profile basically guarantees that I'm going to try to plug it in the wrong way round (probably twice, inexplicably), where as something like an HDMI cable I never get wrong, thanks to the functionally unnecessary angles on the bottom half of the profile.

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 25th, 2016, 4:18 pm

User avatar
slippyfish
full self-realization
full self-realization
Posts: 1564
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 7:07 pm
Coroflot: 2572
Location: 48 degrees north
bcpid wrote:Throughout my career, I've increasingly come to the conclusion that the more I can focus on proportion and the elimination of as many design elements as possible, and the less I can focus on form (except for trying to reduce or simplify and universalize the form as much as possible / kill decorative elements or anything that would constitute fashion) the better off most designs will be. Early on I used to see complex shapes, or crazy, vehicle-inspired or heavily sculptural forms as something to aspire to, but today I find almost anything more than bare minimalism and reduction, reduction, reduction to be inappropriate for most products that need to live in a variety of settings for any length of time. It's almost like how much can you make the product disappear. I feel like products should almost always be visually simplified to an extent that you aren't compounding the clutter problem people already have. Also re form, how much can you design something that once its life as whatever it is now ends, it can easily be repurposed for some other use because it uses common shapes, materials, and assembly processes. It really bothers me when you have an object that because of its esoteric shape or design specificity, is impossible to repurpose.
Key sentence placed in bold lettering.

I think I know what you are getting at, and can sympathize with your aims. Of course there will be 'tastes' of the users and consumers, who might tell us everything should be all blue, or all red, or smooth or spikey or have lots of fake chrome bits. On the other side there's the design at his or her table, tasked with the honest endeavor to make something good, looking for inspiration both from the user and outside world and from within themselves.

Lately I have been asking our team to think about negative-space design, which is probably something auto and architecture designers think about all the time, but seems radical around these parts. We want to create the space for the user to inhabit, by observing them use products, we see how they use the space, and thus the 'positive' forms emerge from the affordances needed in that negative space. Our products tend to be large and our users tend to be sweating and flailing about so perhaps this way of looking at things breaks down when designing a stationary object that is simply plugged in and looked at every so often, like a wireless router box.
“Traveling through hyperspace isn't like dusting crops, boy."

http://www.superformer.com
http://www.coroflot.com/skhid

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 26th, 2016, 4:55 pm

User avatar
yo
Administration
Administration
Posts: 17282
Joined: January 5th, 2004, 6:57 pm
Coroflot: 67242
Location: SoCal
3 words.

Adidas

Kobe

Two
Adidas-Kobe-Two-White-Pair-Front-Angle.png
ar-argentoe2808e.jpg
ar-argentoe2808e.jpg (83.7 KiB) Viewed 6402 times

Re: A few thoughts on form

July 26th, 2016, 9:38 pm

bcpid
step four
step four
Posts: 397
Joined: March 20th, 2004, 8:26 pm
^ Holy hell! THAT is an excellent example of automotive design inspiration completely ruining a product. Isn't the story that they designed them not from the last outward, but from aesthetics inward in some kind of collaboration with a car design group?

To answer the earlier question is this about me or the people I'm designing for...ultimately the people I'm designing for. My assumption has always been that if I am thinking something, others are also thinking the same thing. So the struggle to find functional, lasting and repurposable things that simply and elegantly disappear cannot by my struggle alone.
A very good proof of this is the car market. A honda civic is a great car by most practical metrics. It's reliable, gets great gas mileage, and accelerates reasonably fast enough for all but the most extreme practical purposes. A BMW 328i is almost twice as expensive, is way less reliable, gets worse gas mileage, more expensive to maintain, etc. etc. But if you asked most people which car they'd rather have if money was no object, they'd say the BMW. The reason for that is because it's emotionally more fulfilling to own one. They're more fun to drive, they look way cooler, they have a bunch of very nice features (that are by and large unnecessary), and they're a status symbol.
I'm not sure that's true. If someone is status oriented, sure, they'll take the BMW. Otherwise, they'll see two metal boxes and eight wheels and take the one that's the least hassle, assuming they haven't been brainwashed into stupidity by car ads.
I've been recently reading through the Design of Everyday things, and Norman's discussion of signifiers seems pertinent here; sometimes a completely minimalistic form doesn't adequately convey to a user exactly how they're supposed to use a product. Off the top of my head, a USB plug is a pretty good example - its completely rectangular profile basically guarantees that I'm going to try to plug it in the wrong way round (probably twice, inexplicably), where as something like an HDMI cable I never get wrong, thanks to the functionally unnecessary angles on the bottom half of the profile.
Crappy minimalism, like the Rashid vacuum, signifies a lack of attention to detail and a disregard for end users. Good minimalism dispenses with needless details, has an evident functionality, and is comfortable in its commonness. T shirts are good minimalism.

Re: A few thoughts on form

August 9th, 2016, 4:16 pm

User avatar
NiMaTh
step one
step one
Posts: 20
Joined: June 22nd, 2015, 3:44 pm
I feel that things are overall better received when they appear minimal.... This applies to the actual appearance and interface.

That does not mean the design itself is anywhere close to minimal.

I have designed a few products, nearly the same in functionality, but in regards to user interface, completely different. The more minimal designed product actually required some detail instruction for the end user to be able to understand how to use it, while the complex design appeared the most minimal to the end user, presenting itself as a very intuitive product, no special training required.

my point is that the minimalist approach can be seen from multiple angles, and I think that the one that would matter most to a lot of us is the one that most directly affects the user experience.

Just think of software, complexity is not bad, so long as there is order, and an attempt to conceal the complexity from those who dont understand.

Re: A few thoughts on form

August 23rd, 2016, 5:41 pm

User avatar
themonet
step two
step two
Posts: 98
Joined: August 8th, 2008, 4:00 pm
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
NiMaTh wrote: I have designed a few products, nearly the same in functionality, but in regards to user interface, completely different. The more minimal designed product actually required some detail instruction for the end user to be able to understand how to use it, while the complex design appeared the most minimal to the end user, presenting itself as a very intuitive product, no special training required.
I've often thought about this, and how things that are often lauded for being minimal can in actuality be quite difficult to use. They are not always readily apparent. Like the iPhone for example, when it first came out was actually minimal in its form and user interface. But now as they have added so much that the os is trying to accomplish and different ways of interacting (swipe up, down, left, right, in different menus and contexts to accomplish different features with no indicators of when or how to do them) but the form has remained the same, IMO it is not an intuitive user experience at all anymore.
Swarm Design
Partner : Industrial Design
http://www.swarmeffect.com

Re: A few thoughts on form

August 23rd, 2016, 10:33 pm

User avatar
Azrehan
step four
step four
Posts: 343
Joined: April 25th, 2008, 7:05 am
Coroflot: 290422
Location: South Australia
Proportion plays a pivotal role is whether a form works. Many furniture designs would be horrible if the proportions weren't quite right.

As far as 'minimal is best', I'd have to disagree. Take Philippe Starck's masters chair; which is a mash up of 3 famous chairs into a single injection molded form. It has an interesting story to designers and design enthusiasts, but people who don't know the story behind it also appreciate it's aesthetic beauty. Also, the intertwining forms make it a very strong chair. I think that it's beauty makes it less likely to be thrown away next season.

It can be repurposed as the plastic can be reground and reused.
Reply