Archive for November 12th, 2014

November 12, 2014

Form Follows Function

Ornament and Crime by Daren Newman


Form follows function, a principle associated with modernist architecture and industrial design in the 20th century, holds that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended purpose, not aesthetics or tradition. The authorship of the phrase is often, though wrongly, ascribed to the American sculptor Horatio Greenough, whose thinking to a large extent predates the later functionalist approach to architecture. Greenough’s writings were for a long time largely forgotten, and were rediscovered only in the 1930s; in 1947 a selection of his essays was published under the title ‘Form and Function: Remarks on Art by Horatio Greenough.’

American architect, Louis Sullivan, Greenough’s much younger compatriot, who admired rationalist thinkers like Greenough, Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, and Melville, coined the phrase in his article ‘The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered’ in 1896 (some fifty years after Greenough’s death), though Sullivan later attributed the core idea to Marcus Vitruvius Pollio the Roman architect, engineer and author who first asserted in his book ‘De architectura’ that a structure must exhibit the three qualities of ‘firmitas, utilitas, venustas’ – that is, it must be solid, useful, beautiful. Here Sullivan actually said ‘form ever follows function,’ but the simpler (and less emphatic) phrase is the one usually remembered.

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November 12, 2014


don norman

An affordance is something that provides the opportunity to perform an action. It is often described as a relationship between an object (or environment) and an organism. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling. As a relation, an affordance exhibits the possibility of some action, and is not a property of either an organism or its environment alone.

Different definitions of the term have developed. The original definition described all actions that are physically possible, but was later limited to only those an actor is aware of. The term has further evolved for use in the context of human–computer interaction (HCI) to indicate the easy discoverability of possible actions. The concept has application in several fields: perceptual, cognitive, and environmental psychology, industrial design, instructional design, science, technology and society (STS), and artificial intelligence.

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