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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Form Follows Function Follows Form

The famous designer Marc Newson has been in the news lately due to his employment at Apple. Looking at the Apple Watch on the Internet, I am sure Newson provided significant input on the design. I always love Newson's design, whether it is a car, shelf, or hourglass. I just cannot afford to buy most of them, not even his new book published by Taschen. I own just two objects designed by Newson: Dish Doctor Dish Rack and Alessi Sygma Hook. I see both objects on a daily basis as the dish rack is on my kitchen counter at home and the hook is on the wall of my office. Of the two objects, the hook is the perhaps the more intriguing one.

The Sygma Hook was produced in 1999 by Alessi; sadly the production of the object has been discontinued. The shape is wheel-like with a central spoke, which is attached to the wall with a couple of screws. The shape is utterly functional yet unlike a normal coat hook, the purpose of the Sygma Hook is not as readily obvious from the design. Visitors to my office have wondered out loud about the function of the Sygma Hook.

I have always been fond of the modernist idea of "form follows function", however I don't always subscribe to the idea. This powerful principle has been challenged and debated for a long time. Many aphorisms have sprung up in relation to the principle. One can think of "form follows emotion", "form follows form", or "function follows form". The Sygma Hook is interesting to me because it is an example of both "form follows function" and "function follows form".

The form of Sygma Hook holds certain fascination for Newson because he has used it for several other projects in the past 15 years. In 1999 when Newson designed the concept car 021C for Ford, he use the same form for the steering wheel.

In 2013 Newson employed the form again for the Orotund Light Fixture produced by Flos.

The idea that a form can be derived from function yet different functions can also be assigned to the same form is very appealing. I also like the fact that Newson is not hesitant to repeat the design for multiple projects with different scales and contexts. In an age where the public and the press seem to constantly seek out the new, it is nice to see that one doesn't always have to reinvent the wheel.

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