Form Follows Function

Form follows function is a principle associated with modern architecture modern and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.

In the context of design professions form follows function seems like good sense but on closer examination it becomes problematic and open to interpretation. Linking the relationship between the form of an object and its intended purpose is a good idea for designers and architects, but it is not always by itself a complete design solution.

In the late 1910s the two principles of “form follows function” and “ornament is a crime” were effectively adopted by the designers of the Bauhaus and applied to the production of everyday objects like chairs, bedframes etc. Some of those forms were refined and purified to such an extreme degree that they became unusable by humans, but generally the Bauhaus still constructively influences the look, feel and function of consumer goods down to the present day.

The American industrial designers of the 1930s and ’40s like Raymond Loewy, Norman bel Geddes and Henry Dreyfuss grappled with the inherent contradictions of ‘form follows function’ as they redesigned blenders and locomotives and duplicating machines for mass-market consumption. Loewy formulated his ‘MAYA’ (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) principle to express that product designs are bounded by functional constraints of math and materials and logic, but their acceptance is constrained by social expectations.

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