Form Follows Function

There is an article by Heydon Pickering at in which he explores, “an alternative approach to styling Web documents.” This is not my game but I liked what I read in the initial paragraphs and I think it applies to all designers:

“ ‘Form ever follows function. This is the law.’ So said the architect and ‘father of skyscrapers’ Louis Sullivan. For architects not wishing to crush hundreds of innocent people under the weight of a colossal building, this rule of thumb is pretty good.
In design, you should always lead with function, and allow form to emerge as a result.”

Similarly, Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

In both of these statements there is a theme: never go into a project with a set idea. Always allow the content to drive your design. Your ideas and dreams and overall aesthetic are applied second. I’m not saying that all design has to be functional but I do feel that whatever you create has to jive with the content. If not then maybe you are creating a visual masterpiece with nothing to say. Personally, I prefer a beautiful design that is also informative, or tells a story, or snaps me out of my usual routine and gets me to DO something.

Great design doesn’t just sit there, it moves you. It should move you on all fronts: the way it looks, the way the look is informed by the content, and of course, what the contents
are saying.

Coming back to Michelangelo, consider your content like it is a slab of marble.
Somewhere inside that pile of paper is a masterpiece. Start slow, read, understand, research, collaborate with your client, with other designers, with the writer. Try things out, slowly chip away at the mound of information in front of you until you hit the right note and start to fly. Eventually you’ll come away with something amazing and hopefully everyone will be happy.

And then . . . it’ll be time to . . . start a new project. 🙂


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