Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video Form and function, part of Objectified.
- We now have a new generation of products. Where the form bears absolutely no relation to the function. I mean look at something like an iPhone and think of all the things it does. In the olden days of, sort of, what are called analog products. In other words, they're not digital they're not electronic. Something like, say, a chair or a spoon. Form followed function tend to work. So, if say, you imagine being a martian and you just land on planet Earth and you've never seen a spoon or a chair before. You can guess roughly what you're supposed to do with them, sit on or feed yourself with them, by the shape of the object, by the way it looks.
Now all that has been annihilated by the microchip. So, design is moving from this culture of the tangible and the material to an increasingly intangible and immaterial culture but that poses an enormous number of tensions and conflicts within design. - I think there are really three phases of modern design. One of those phases, or approaches if you'd like, is looking at the design in a formal relationship, formal logic of the object.
The act of form giving. Form begets form. The second way to look at it is in terms of the symbolism and the content of what you're dealing with. The little rituals that make up making coffee or using a fork and knife or the cultural symbolism of a particular object. Those come back to inhabit and give form, help give guidance to the designer about how that form should be or how it should look. The third phase really is looking at design in a contextual sense, in a much bigger picture scenario.
It's looking at the technological context for that object. It's looking at the human and object relationship. The first phase you might have something fairly new like Karim Rashid's KONE vacuum, which is for Dirt Devil. That the company sells as basically so beautiful that you can put it on display. In other words, you can leave it on your counter. It doesn't look like it's a piece of crap. Conversely, you could look at James Dyson and his vacuum cleaners. He approaches the design of the vacuum in a very functionalist manner but if you look at the form of it it's really expressing that.
It's expressing the symbolism of function. There's color introduced into it and he's not a frivolous person so it's really there to articulate the various components of the vacuum or you could look at a more recent manifestation that's kind of a contextual approach would be something like the Roomba. There the relationship to the vacuum is very different. First of all, there's no more human interaction relationship. The relationship is to the room it's cleaning. I think it's even more interesting that the company actually has kits that are available on the marketplace called through iCreate.
It's essentially the Roomba vacuum cleaner kit that's made for hacking. People are really whacky, I mean, they've created things like bionic hampster which is attaching the kind of play wheel or dome that the hampster uses as the driving device for the Roomba. So, it's kind of the ultimate revenge of the animal on the vacuum cleaner. How I think about it, as a designer myself, is that design is really the search for form. What form should this object take? Designers have asked that question and they've used different processes.
Objectified is a documentary about industrial design; it's about the manufactured objects we surround ourselves with, and the people who make them. Gary Hustwit, the director of Helvetica, talks with Dieter Rams, Marc Newson, Jonathan Ive, and other renowned designers behind some of the world's most iconic products. lynda.com is proud to offer this film to our members, along with over one hour of online-exclusive bonus movies.