Form and Function

Form has usually been thought of as the envelope that encloses a technology. in some situations, the two are seamless, so the technol­ogy and the form are seen as continuous. An airplane propeller or wing is an example of blended form and function. such examples are rare. in most cases, the internal structure or mechanism must be cov­ered by a surface to protect consumers from the product’s inner workings, which might be sensitive, dangerous, or just ugly. No one covered a horse pulling a carriage, but automobile engines had to be covered by hoods for a number of reasons.

In the best examples of form encasing function, a product’s shell can be used to accomplish a number of goals. The cover of a CD play­er can protect the inner workings from damage or dirt, make the product easier to hold, help the person who uses it to find the con­trols, be made into a form using a material and color that will connect to and enhance the consumer’s lifestyle, and make the product dis­tinct in the marketplace. Even the simplest of products can be dif­ferentiated from the competition with a thoughtful addition of details. The concept of form and function is at its best when both are integrated to fulfill the complete expectations of the manufacturer and the consumer. In this case, form and function can fulfill the fan­tasy of the consumer and generate a profit that is sustainable and that allows the company to prosper. In the case of a propeller, the form must keep the plane in the air. Beyond that, it has little additional value. A car body must protect a customer from crashes, it must house the engine, and it must also create a visual statement that peo­ple respond to. There are a variety of airplane propellers, but all the variations are driven by function. No one would use a propeller to make a fashion statement. With a car, the statement and the function are equally important, so the form and the function must work in complement. A sports car and a van have the same basic function, but the forms vary significantly to meet the needs of the different types of consumers who buy these vehicles.

Updated: October 1, 2015 — 1:23 am