Form Follows Function.

In my first year of university, in a module called history and context of design; we were tasked as part of a group, to give a presentation on a topic of our own choice. Using a Japanese presentation style called Pecha Kucha, which are 20 slides for 20 seconds. The group was made up of me, Jamie and Dan. We chose to research and present on the Bauhaus school and its influence on the students and tutors work.

Our Presentation.

Reflecting on this task as part of my journey as a graphic design student, I feel this was a real turning point. This was one of the places where I just got ‘it’. The whole point of the presentation was to show how we had explored the topic. That body of research into the Bauhaus, has been the back bone to much of my work, I know it might seem cliché to quote “form follows function”, something I had heard as an A-level student studying product design. That philosophy of the function of work being the main driving force, was being closely followed by the tutors and students of the Bauhaus school in the 1920’s and early 30’s; and was one that transpired throughout the modernist period up and until present day.

Looking at my own work from the point where I was just a beginner; and a little wet behind the ears, I feel that I have come a long way. The notion of functionality is surely key to any design; otherwise what is the point of the piece. Taking the London Tube map, as an example we all know it in some form or another, and how to move from A to B with the map conceptualised by Henry C. Beck. Although the map doesn’t really geographically show where the stations are, the ability to move around London with such ease is key. During that modernist era, there are many examples compared to what was shown before that held the idea of functionality. The work of the Art Nouveau poster artists maybe didn’t have the same feelings, packing the designs full of detail making the reality of its function eligible. The work that I saw while researching around the Bauhaus has been engrained into my memory, the idea that they have influenced since it was closed in 1933 is one that doesn’t surprise me.

London tube map- Designed by Henry Beck 1933

London tube map – Designed by Henry Beck 1933

We spoke about its influence in our presentation, both during the life of the school and the years to present day. With clear links to the Swiss International Style and Josef Muller Brockmann, their work can be seen in its functionality. The way that Muller Brockmann used typographic layouts to create order is something that I admire within design; the concept suits the idea of form following function.

Here is a piece I did in the first year that is based in the Swiss international style, even though I didn’t really see the influence at the time, I do now!


Josef Muller Brockmann and My Personal Poster

I know that the poster is not perfect, and now two years on I can see so many improvements I could make to it. That’s what the process of university is for; the defining of those skills, the ways of thinking, the critical analysis of work, the improvements and most of all when we can say our work is ‘a load rubbish’. There are clear links between my own work and the work I was looking into. There is also the chance to explore the idea of visually arresting someone with your work, but as long as you have the function in there as a narrator or a voice that a consumer can pick up on.

Reflecting on the exploration of the Bauhaus, along with other areas of the modernist period shows they have informed my own practice. Learning history is something I enjoy, I have done since I was young and being able to explore something I am passionate about is a bonus. There are still points when you have to question this way of working, the chance to make something that is really aesthetically pleasing can also be rewarding. This is partly about a new brief, to design a set of film posters. The notion of being able to seduce, but have the functionality of the film title , the season title, timings and the image all there for someone to view is key.

For more history, check out:

Hollis, R. (2001) Graphic design; A concise history. Revised edn. Thames And Hudson.

©  2014 Matt Finch. All rights reserved.

2 thoughts on “Form Follows Function.

  1. I’m having a bit of a hard time agreeing that the poster you have shown by Josef Muller Brockmann was based upon functionality. The orientation of the text itself seems to me to be inspired by some Dada pieces, making the poster exciting but the content hard to read, even when using Akzindenz Grotesk. I’d love to believe that he did it just because he was in a library looking for some inspiration and used Dada as an influence “because it was edgy”.

    • I suppose my example, of Muller Brockmann is more about the links between his work and what I was looking at throughout that period and how it lead to my own poster. Also the diagonal has clear links to the Bauhaus as well, there are examples within the presentation at the top that have used this; albeit with images but they still hold the same feel.

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