Form Follows Function


Good design is quiet and reliable like a refrigerator, it goes unnoticed until it breaks down — then slowly everything starts to stink.

Most people are more interested matching the Refrigerator to the kitchen’s style. It’s no wonder that people confuse style with design.

The difference seems very obvious. Design is a creative process that’s empathic to the person the design serves. Style is a manner of doing or presenting things.

The confusion is obvious as well. We innocently purchase a refrigerator to impress our neighbors or are seduced by style trends before researching its reliability. Sooner or later the real authentic value of the refrigerator is revealed.

The same truth applies for products, services or systems. Sooner or later, style fades and only the flaws are left.

Don’t get me wrong — I love style. It’s not all bad.

Both designers and stylists use aesthetic style intentionally to attract people to their work. But … the intentions of a designer and stylist are very different. Design is empathetic of the user’s emotions with the intention is to create a positive, long-term outcome. Style utilizes emotions with the intent to elicit immediate short-term results, normally a sale.

Designers and stylist priorities are reversed. Beauty is the first thing the viewer sees and the last thing a designer works on. Why? Design is solution focused.

Style is status. Design is Authentic. No judgement. Form follows Function. It’s that simple.

We all know simple is never easy. The surface normally hides a deeper truth. The complex things are the things that are broken and harder to fix.

The broken things need solutions that are designed. These solutions have the greatest impact on us and society. Imagine we could design solutions for these big broken things: Environment, Health and Socio-Economic Issues.

This is not a new idea. Victor Papanek, the Father of Human Centered Design, wrote a book called “Design for the Real World” in 1971 all about this premises. Designers should take some of the same design strategies used to create industrial products and use them to tackle problems like pollution, overcrowding and food shortages.

Papenek used to lecture — “a Designer needs to open his eyes.” You need to observe the world in order to ask interesting questions. Design methodology helps reframe how to observe the way humans live their lives then ask interesting questions. It’s the observations and questions that uncover the solutions

Since we all have time to pause, now is a good time to start applying simple Human Centered Design Strategies to reframe our relationship with ourselves and the world.

Here are few Design Strategies that never fail.

1. Start where you are You have to start somewhere. The best place to start is where you are. Be authentic. Honestly admitting that a problem exists helps you activate a solution mindset.

2. Less really is more Stick to a solution focus and don’t worry about how you look. Keep moving in a positive direction. Don’t try to fake it until you make it. Be it. Work toward being your ideal self every day. Even if you miss your goal, at least you are still you. That’s a very good thing. A clear reminder that your authentic self is a good thing developing into something better.

3. Get started, no excuses You can adjust while you’re working. Remember your values. Your values are your heartbeat. They will shape and mold how you see and use principles. Values are also the best baseline standard for any kind of personal evaluation. If something doesn’t align with your values, it will never work for you.

4. Build trust Maintaining a mindset of curiosity and working toward a solution defines positivity. Faking a positive attitude doesn’t build trust in others; your actions build trust. Working toward a solution builds trust in a process and that trust builds trust in yourself.

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