Most people don’t realize that good design has just as much to do with how something works as it does with how something looks. Modern design trends in technology require some sort of form to stay culturally relevant, but they also need to function at an optimal level. Let’s see how form & function appears in our homes and why this switch had to happen for modern audiences.
Arts and Purpose: A Clash of Two Mediums
Art doesn’t have to have a purpose and can exist as is, but for something to have a purpose, it needs to serve a function. As tech became prominent, it existed to execute a task or a job but was often big, clunky, and didn’t look aesthetically pleasing. The first radio, invented by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901, was a massive contraption that extended the length of a table.
We hate to judge a book by its cover, but the first radio was not a sight to behold. However, when companies like Bang & Olufsen started manufacturing radios in 1934, they valued both art and purpose by creating the Hyperbo 5 RG Steel, which looked like a chair and acted as a piece of furniture. Bang & Olufsen speakers, televisions, and radios continue this tradition to this day.
How Art and Design Overlap
While Bang & Olufsen helped promote form and function in design, they weren’t the first to experiment with it. In 1896, architect Louis Sullivan spoke about this concept when describing skyscrapers. He saw the purpose of combining beautiful objects with functionality that the modernist movement continues to update and reform time and time again.
How Function Becomes Form
For over a century, Sullivan influenced good design, and his words resonated with home technology manufacturers almost immediately. Modernism, the movement that aims to break classical and traditional norms, grew out of this period.
Form and function was the primary design element of modernism, but standardizing production, acknowledging the machine, synthesis, experimentation, and simplicity also made an impact. For example, acknowledging the machine became essential for software programmers that had to understand their computers’ limitations to create something incredible.
Synthesis and experimentation are essential to the design making process because it involves bringing together new, thought-provoking ideas. Simplicity is also important; no one wants to fuss with something that’s difficult to understand or is clunky in concept.
Form and Function in Home Tech
Modernism turned into Minimalism in the past 2 decades, and with it, the design of home tech took a similar turn. We can look at the bathroom scale as an example of how the functionality barely changed, but the scale’s look and feel evolved significantly.
Example: Bathroom Scale
Vintage bathroom scales are of the same size as their modern equivalent, were made of metal, and had a little peek-a-boo glass or plastic box that showed your weight. Vintage scales used balancing scales to give an approximation of weight represented by a number.
Old scales weren’t accurate but served their purpose at the time. Modern bathroom scales, like the Nokia Body + Digital Scale, are capable of connecting to your phone to track weight, total body fat, BMI, water percentage, and muscle and bone mass. Modern scales are almost always made of glass or one neutral color for a minimalist look.
Tech Becomes Smaller
Modern technology has become more compact due to Moore’s law, which is the observation that the amount of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles every two years. This trend has remained consistent and has led to smaller technology made to fit in smaller homes and apartments. Security cameras, computers, and phones all benefit from Moore’s law.
As tech becomes smaller, there has been a movement to make it less ornate, so it blends into most homes or designs. It also prevents large tech objects from overpowering a house because they’re smaller yet more useful than tech from a decade ago.
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Let’s see how form & function appears in our homes and why this switch had to happen for modern audiences.
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