Function Vs. Form
Function versus form and thoughts on living a life one step forward and two steps back.
When it comes to buying into new products, software, or services I take my time in picking out the best of what there is to offer within my price range and often just out of my price range because I have a knack for being overly demanding when it comes to tools that I use every day. While constantly on the move I need things that will hold up to the general abuse of being in a lot of different environments. Its something people often tease me about, “there goes john on another endless quest for another gadget.” I feel I do it out of necessity. I don’t have a ton of money to throw away on mistakes or maybes, I like to get it right the first time and that takes time and research.
I often find myself pooling together reviews and technical information on products in my mind as I research things before buying into something. Lately, the more I think about it, the more I have seen patterns in my research habits. As with many things in human nature I tend to be drawn to objects or products that are aesthetically striking in some way. While my life may not be surrounded with perfect minimal yet functional environments I do have a great appreciation for solid, logical, thoughtful design and this is where things get interesting. While the form of a product may be the first factor which draws my attention there is also the ever present need to keep an eye on the objects functionality as well. It’s rare that the two come together to live happily ever after.
The most obvious example of these sorts of arguments is Apple computer, often touted as being a company that has a brilliant form with an equally strong presence in its functionality as a consumer product. This could be argued endlessly as many people believe that Apple has a tendency to leave out certain function in order to simplify the physical form. Such as the lack of ports on the iPad or Macbook Air yet these simple, elegant forms are lusted after by thousands and thousands of adoring fans often because of the underlying simplicity of the products.
The minimal movement that has been slowly creeping into more of the publics mental space I feel is being fueled by a backlash from the past century of a rapidly growing dependency on consumption as a form of entertainment. In a world where hoarding objects is such a serious issue among many, there are people such as myself that want to distance themselves from the hysteria and in turn look to a minimal style of living to accommodate that desire.
I find that I sit somewhere between the ultra minimal lifestyle that many tout on their blogs and social networks and those attached to older, kitschy nostalgia. I like having old books on my bookshelf and small trinkets from my travels scattered around my living space. I like both the minimal forms of modern trends in product design and the warm feeling an old wooden bookshelf can bring. Its a position that has left me in a place where making observations on function and form lay in a strange place.
In many ways I can admit to being a true sucker for a nicely designed product, Apples new iPad sucked me right on in with its slick vision of what computing may turn into as years creep by. The form of the iPad is simply perfect, nothing distracting it from its refined modern beauty. No ugly ports getting in the way, no un-needed functionality, just the essence of their vision. Along with creating a product like the creator must knowingly make sacrifices and compromises while designing it. All of you know that people complain often about Apples overly simplified approach. The bulk of the consumers on the market often don’t share the utopian vision of computing Apple has created and wonder where the USB ports and camera are.
In the world we live in we have been trained to expect our purchases to do more and cost less. This takes me back to what I was saying about a backlash from those of us who are getting overwhelmed by the increasing piles of previous generations possessions and the current generations rapidly growing heaps of slightly dated tech and ideas discarded oh so quickly in the name of progress. This applies to many things in life whether it be the newest gadget or something as simple as the image you choose as your desktop wallpaper. It seems we need more and more to be satisfied in today’s world.
I am no stranger of such accumulation. In the past few years I have bought into three models of iPhones. Did I need to? Not particularly, a phone is just a phone after all. In my case I let the iPhone be my outlet for having something new and interesting where I left my sturdy old macbook continue to hum along happily moving a tiny bit slower and slower as I push it with newer, more demanding software. There is an precarious balance to be found among the overwhelming amount of tech news leading to lust for new products as if what we have SURELY cant be enough… The grass is always greener mentality.
My dad tells me growing up he was promised flying cars and yet he still drives around on rubber tires. In my youth I daydreamed of a music player that could hold a dozen albums no bigger than a postage stamp and I would take it to a music store to fill it with music and here I am, iPod shuffle in hand and I don’t even have to leave my house to get the latest and greatest music loaded up. Expectation is such a delicate, interesting beast of a concept. I feel my expectations of the future differ from my dads for an interesting reason. As we quickly spiral to a finer point as far as the speed of consumer evolution and innovation goes, I feel our collective imaginations shift greatly from decade to decade. Its fascinating to consider how these ideas and our expectations of the outcome can vary so greatly.
So in this light, what we expect of our day to day lives is constantly being altered and the tools we use day to day shift greatly as we progress forward. It really was not that long ago we were debating the validity of the floppy disc and here we are doing the same thing over and over with the continuing push toward minimalism in our everyday working life. For the longest time we were convinced faster, bigger, stronger, more was what we needed but things have taken a turn in a different direction. New products being designed are getting smaller and theoretically more efficient as we continue to examine and explore our needs versus our desires, expectations, and fantasy.
With social networking at an impossible high its no wonder many of us are looking to simplify our lives. Our expectations are now instant and as soon as one new thing is available to us it is often immediately outdated or passed off as not good enough. Our desires are now seemingly impossible to meet. Our fantasies are now far less focused or simple than they once were, we just want everything and we expect everything and we want it now.
Wears me out.
So when it comes to buying into new products I feel its good to look at things in a really obvious way, why do I think I need this and what do I need it for, which leads me to also picture what I DON’T need within the product as well. All too often a product will stretch itself way to thin by trying to accomplish too much. When you boil down a need to its essence you will more often than not discover you can usually do more, and be happier with less. When you simplify your desires it leaves room for you to actually enjoy the results of your labors.
Breaking all of these elements down I am left with these simple comparisons, necessity versus desire. Compromise versus great expectations. Honesty versus fantasy. Function versus form.
I am all too curious to see where this all takes us. I can only hope that more people continue to realize the benefits of simplifying our lives and understanding the true power of the old phrase, less is more. So before you run and dive into that next random app purchase you may or may not really need or buy that new computer that has one more bell or whistle give yourself a chance to catch up with your own honest needs rather than stumbling blindly into the next best thing. A battle I guarantee you will never win. (spoken from experience ;) )
Happiness is easier to find when you don’t fill your life with all that clutter and that is the reason I have been thinking about all of this lately. It feels all too daunting to live a life so crammed full with information and constantly changing standards to keep track of. I search for ways to find a balancing point, a calm among the madness of life spinning around me. Its strange to think that the products we create and consume are becoming as much a part of us as the real world experiences they were built to aid us in. I am not saying you should never buy anything or have fun with new toys, I just feel it’s important to be self aware.
So before I get carried off into another vein of thought within these ideas I will leave it at that. Feel free to chime into the discussion in the comments below.