Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Which came first-form or function?

Years ago, when I was in college I took a design theory class that I loved. If I could take that particular course again I would. Seeing it through different, older eyes would be interesting.
We talked about form and function mostly. We talked about the design of taillights, ad nauseum. 
We discussed stalacmites and stalactites and smoke vortices. 

I did a research paper on the latter. It covered the question "does form follow function?" I don't remember what I said but I put a lot of thought into it and I'm pretty sure I got a B+.
I still ponder this question on a day to day basis.
The mavericks of post-modern design answer the question with objects almost totally devoid of ornament. 
le Corbusier

When you discover beautiful things does this question come up? Do you wonder why it is you prefer one style over another?
roll arm
For instance, the curve of a roll-arm chair vs. a track-arm style seems on the surface to be a matter of style preference. The roll arm being for the sake of ornateness.
track arm

I think the roll-arm, while traditionally traditional, gets its form from the necessary function of comfort . The track-arm, while seemingly lacking in ornament is rather the opposite. Its streamlined appearance is for looks and not comfort.
I suppose that ornament does not necessarily lack function.
A painting's function is ornament.

In nature, form always follows function whether it be self-preservation or other forces that cause its form. 

In design, form does not always follow function. Sometimes form is just form.
While utilitarian need not be ugly, I think life would be pretty boring without ornament for ornament's sake.

Do you prefer purely functional, yet beautiful designs over decorative objects?

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