Louis Sullivan coined the phrase “form follows function” and throughout the 20th century, many architects and designers have contributed to the principles of design regarding the relationship of function and form. To name a few-
- Less is more – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
- Less is bore – Robert Venturi
- and more recently, ‘Yes’ is more – Bjarke Ingels
These design thought-leaders are trying to reconcile the linkage between our emotion and the construction of the designed object.
If we were to plot these principles along a hierarchical value map (see academic journals.org for a research paper) we would likely see the following lineage:
Form, Function, Emotion, and Construction are all layered on each other and great designers are capable of influencing the entire stack of attributes. When designers first set pen to paper, they often start by solving a problem in a particular level of the stack. Where function intersects with form, the designer finds their proposed solution.
However, as we all know, just because it can be designed, doesn’t mean it can be constructed. Neither does it have an emotional connection with the user. Designers must then go beyond the mere intersection of form and function, but also account for the deep manufacturing, assembly, transport, and packaging of the design. Likewise designers need to reach up and understand the branding, messaging, and positioning of the design in the heart and mind of the consumer.
Designers in the past have relied on manufacturing engineers, marketers, logisticians, and others to gain the skill set. Today, the best designers are those who can provide leadership, even in these areas of expertise. As society continues to diversify and specialize these skill sets, it is crucial that designers maintain, if not increase their role as connectors.
If not, then who will connect emotion to construction?
This is a significant challenge that all designers must answer through their work.