Form follows Function

For the past month or so I’ve been watching this show on TLC, Jon and Kate Plus 8, and it follows this husband and wife team and their 8 children (sextuplets and twins). It’s rather amusing to watch the kids and parents battle through each day and sometimes I can pick up some time-saving tips or new activities. Well, last night I watched the parents take all eight kids to the Crayola Factory to see how crayons were made and enjoy some art activities. Stations were set up throughout the “Factory” to test the Crayola products, markers, clay, and of course, crayons.

I usually enjoy this show, but last night I was a bit annoyed that the mother would not let the children use the markers or get messy because they were wearing their nice clothes. I thought to myself, and I normally don’t like to pass judgement because well, I have no idea what it’s like to raise eight children, however I couldn’t help but think… then, why did you take them to the Crayola Factory? Or, why didn’t you just dress them in old clothes and bring a smock for them? Kids will be kids.

So, that led me to remember an important graphic design principle I learned in college, “Form follows function.”  Mainly this principle is associated with modern architecture and industrial design, which states something to the effect that the shape or form of a building or object should be based on its intended function. Basically, it is important to not only think of what your product will look like, but also what purpose it will serve and what “shape” is best suited for that purpose.

If you are taking your kids to a place where there are messy art projects, dress them in older clothes… if you are taking them to church, then dress them in nice clothes. If you are developing a brochure intended for mailing, then consider the size and shape for the best, cost-effective mailing method. This principle sounds simple enough, but can be overlooked as ideas of exciting designs can sometimes cloud the desired finished piece. Keep your ultimate goal in mind and work backwards, and the correct form will follow.