Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mike Doyle: Form Follows Function Fallacy Fail

Since he doesn't allow comments any more, consider this a public place to respond to this steaming pile of crap. Rather than rip it to shreds one paragraph at a time, I'll simply say: Mike just doesn't get it. His erudition may work on a bunch of ignorant suits in a boardroom, but in the context of responding to feedback from the consumer it's meaningless.


At 7:28 AM, Blogger Seth Jaffee said...

You're right. That guy doesn't appear to know what he's talking about.

Or, if you prefer, "I don't agree with that guy's definition of Function, his analysis of the phrase 'Form follows function,' or his assertion that it's a fallacy."

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was interesting to read that El Capitan should have just not been rethemed to begin with.

At 1:18 PM, Blogger ekted said...

It's not a simple disagreement with his post. That would be a subjective argument as in, "I just don't like his art or graphic designs very much." This is a case of completely missing the mark, like arguing with your doctor about how much blood should be let for a common cold.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger agent easy said...

Ok, so I'm not a big fan of his writing style, but on the surface I don't see the big problem with the article. It boils down to "there is more to designing art for boards and other game components than simple useability"

I don't see anything wrong with this premise. His examples of the kinds of trade-offs in useability a designer might want to make in order to improve marketing or theme aren't unreasonable.

One could argue with how effective he is at implementing his own philosophy (I tend to like his box covers quite a lot, but not so much his game board redesigns...), but isn't that outside of the scope of the article itself?

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

The fallacy that Doyle is committing is called "the strawman fallacy". It's what happens when you say, "form follows function is used as an absolute. Here's why absolutes are bad."

The form follows function concept is one of design approach, not of anti-aesthetics (though I'm sure there are anti-aesthetic types who use the phrase). It refers to the priority of function in the majority of highly innovative and successful designs, mostly in terms of architecture, but the phrase has been applied to many other areas.

The article also calls out some bad examples. You don't cite a museum in a debate about form and function because the function of a museum is to illustrate form.

In architecture, form follows function is a statement about how and why you violate the rules. Frank Lloyd Wright famously said that the phrase had been "misunderstood" and that "form and function should be one." This is the pro-aesthetic point of view that I think Doyle is ignoring, and which I think he'll find is the majority.

On the flip-side you have structures like MIT's Stata Center ( which barely manage to meet their functional needs amid their wild attempts to highlight their form. This ultimately leads to structures that are not actually any better than a plain gray box, and come with a far larger price tag in terms of construction and maintenance. It might be art. To some it might even be good art, but it's not what it was supposed to be, and it could have been done on a smaller scale without causing anyone the inconvenience.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger ekted said...

Let's change the context to a restaurant...

Customer: Chef, this soup is too salty.

Chef: Sir, I have studied for years at the most prestigious cooking schools. And I have given weeks of thought to this very soup recipe. I can assure you that there is just the right amount of salt.

Customer: Whatever, dude. (pushes bowl)

At 1:08 PM, Blogger Aaron said...

Your soup example is excellent, and you should be asking yourself, "what is the function of soup?" Fundamentally it's split between nutrition (for which almost no salt is actually required) and taste. For taste, which is a subjective metric, you must consult your audience. So the "artiste" who tells you that he knows how much salt you need in your soup is actually demonstrably wrong, and has failed to fulfill the function of his product.

Now if you had talked about the ingredients in the soup as a whole, that would be more useful. You might start with the function of nutrition. You choose lentils and a veggie broth for their nutritional value and broad appeal to multiple cultures and dietary needs. This gives you a brown base. To appeal to the senses, you the "jazz that up" with some carrots, celery and onion for a combination of scent, taste and visual appeal.

You now have a soup which combines form and function, but does not start with "how can I be pretty" and try to hammer that into the needs of the consumer. The latter would be a commercial canned soup that looks great, but has to add artificial vitamins and minerals to make up for what it lacks in nutrition.


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