Function Vs. Form

aiaiai tma-1

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.

Comments

  1. Benjamin Chait - August 23, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Appreciate the line “wears me out,” as I find myself grappling with too much choice; almost overwhelming.

  2. Carlos Cabezas - August 24, 2010 at 3:44 am

    Thank you so much!!!… Your writing is excellent, I like it very much,,,I am not going to buy a new computer until my computer is dead, it is an old powermac g4 MDD.=] I am a musician, I am getting a degree in Violin Performance, when I decide to get my violin, I have to think and know that this violin will be my violin for the rest of my life. That was a hard choice,.=) What you wrote is very much what I am thinking, we can get so much stuff in this world, but the question is what you said “less is more” and always try to get the best…and of course to find the perfect balance talking about technology….. thank you for showing your point of view I like it very much.[i’am not an American I’am from Colombia so i’m sorry for my grammar]

    with Admiration..

    CarlosC.

  3. Drew Peterson - August 24, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Yea. Living complicated also costs money. Money a lot don’t have. I bought a “Timbuk2” bag cause i thought it was the most amazing thing in the world, soon i was buying two more. those bags generally are $100 a pop. So yea, waste of money i soon realized. Eventually i sold them and left one for myself, with the convincing of my girlfriend, and I’m much happier sticking with my ol faithful bag than having the hippest version of it. Simpler is a much, much healthier way to live.

  4. Drew Peterson - August 24, 2010 at 6:11 am

    you also might like this site. Wondrous place of making the old into new, practicality made easier. Just a great site all around.

    http://lifehacker.com/

  5. Carlos A. - August 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Excellent read – I completely agree with your points. I feel exactly the same way about the last part, where you mention that our products are actually becoming parts of us and our lives, surpassing their original purpose. What’s fascinating is how social networking has probably played a huge role in all of this. Just go on Twitter, and look at how many people are raving about the newest hot product/app/service, and then watch how many people flock to purchase said product/app/service, simply because of the enormous amount of popularity in the social networks. I’d say impulse buys are far easier to make when we are surrounded by other impulse buyers, and that’s what I think is happening here.

  6. Jonas F - August 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Hey nice picture. Can ypu upload it in high res?

  7. Lukas - August 25, 2010 at 6:37 am

    Very nice read! I feel my thoughts expressed by you in this article. As a blogger involved in Apple-related topic I especially liked the paragraph about the iPad and its new way of computing which certain customers really do not understand – this fits exactly my experiences in the past.

    Function vs. Form is a nice title to choose for this subject, because it describes the problem, and not special issues within the topic so your article is a real oveview – and not yet another article on the problem of minimalism. That is what iI like the most on this page :)

  8. Carsten - August 25, 2010 at 8:12 am

    I was hoping for a review of the TMA-1 :) Can you recommend it?

  9. walrusman - August 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    “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 both the minimal forms of modern trends in product design and the warm feeling an old wooden bookshelf can bring.”

    This describes the aesthetic I have in my place as well. I’ve been following the many minimalist blogs, and while I admire the “own 10-30 things” ideal, the Kubrick style dwelling it leaves comes off a bit sterile for my tastes. Part of me is always drawn to a worn bookshelf filled with real books (not ready to replace that with an ipad just yet), or a fireplace mantle with some photos/art displayed on it. In my mind the perfect balance is to have a place tastefully decorated with authentic, well crafted objects, plenty of space but enough “things” to bring a sense of warmness.

  10. Eddie - August 25, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Exquisite piece. I really think minimal is the “new black.” As we continue to barrel into an age of information and material possession overload, I think culturally, we will seek balance by putting more value on minimalist approaches. It’s that pendulum thing.

    And it’s perceptive to recognize the Apple effect. I think there has always been a distinct minimalist, almost eastern, subculture within the Apple community. As Apple has gone from a niche desktop maker to a major mobile player, these influences will spread deeper into technology communities, which increasingly are the new “in real life” spaces.

  11. Uri - August 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Fantastic post!

    I think you summarized in this piece what a lot of people, including myself, are struggling with every day.
    The balance between ideal simplicity and functional simplicity can be hard to achieve but once you find a way that works for you, everything else follows.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. Jason - August 25, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Great post!

    I also appreciate your blog theme of light grey on dark grey with appropriate text width – very easy on the eyes. :)

    Found this via Minimal on Tumblr:

    http://mnmal.tumblr.com/post/1008182537/the-minimal-movement-that-has-been-slowly-creeping

    Wish this blog was on tumblr, as I’ve stopped using RSS feeds (also rarely use twitter now) in attempt to cut down on “noise”.

    Will bookmark and hope I come across more articles soon.

    Thanks!

  13. Less Stress One Bankers Box at a Time | The Brooks Review - August 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    […] I don’t know why, but I am. I have been all over today and just read this great post over at FiftyFootShadows (via Minimal Mac) on minimalism and consumerism. It got me to thinking about a goal I have had for […]

  14. Jonny - August 26, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    This was a great read, and I’m with Jonas F. in asking for a desktop of that picture. Pretty much all your pictures are amazing, it’s crazy!

  15. Less Stress One Bankers Box at a Time Part II | The Brooks Review - August 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    […] I don’t know why, but I am. I have been all over today and just read this great post over at FiftyFootShadows (via Minimal Mac) on minimalism and consumerism. It got me to thinking about a goal I have had for […]

  16. john - August 29, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for taking the time to read through what I wrote here, its true that life can get overwhelming when filled to the brim with mess and its nice to see so many others appreciate this idea of a more subtle way of living life.

    I would love to respond to everyones comment personally but I’m afraid life has kept me too busy to take as much time as I would like too here but I have read (and always read) every comment left here on the site and greatly appreciate the input, as do other readers!

    I find its wonderful anytime I see constructive comments and feedback left on posts like these rather than your usual silly trite internet fair and I am proud to have such great readers!

  17. sunhead - September 1, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    yep, all too true. that is why i picture the balance for you in a tent in the woods watching a movie on your ipod. :) i think there will be a backlash and we will go back to old school, instead of how many friends on facebook it will be where are my real friends? and then grabbing them and sitting on a stoop, having a drink and watching the world go by. or at least i hope so.

  18. Martyn - September 6, 2010 at 8:59 am

    “The best things in life aren’t things.”
    – Art Buchwald

  19. blackberry - October 29, 2010 at 8:29 am

    Hm.
    I’m not sure someone who has gone through three iphones (this year!) is really in a position to speak on minimalism. Insofar as Apple is concerned, they know their market. Minimalist products (and styling) is the new consumption. Never mind about the lack of Flash, you are buying an experience. And you’ll buy another one.
    One of the problems of choice is the degree to which we begin to rationalize our happiness through it. We will only be happy with The Right Product. One that reflects who we are, lol. Cool, minimal, sleek yet functional. That is what my phone tells people about me. But all it really says is I’m another consumer. This isn’t a bad thing, but it should be recognized for what it is.
    :shrug:

Leave A Reply

To whom it may concern,

IMAGES FOUND WITHIN FIFTYFOOTSHADOWS.NET ARE ©JOHN CAREY AND MAY NOT BE USED FOR ANY COMMERCIAL USE WITHOUT PERMISSION. 

DO:

• Enjoy the images! It’s a labor of love, thanks for your support!
• Share fiftyfootshadows.net with friends.
• Send me a quick mail if you are interested in using an image for commercial or personal use other than wallpaper.

DON’T:

• Post desktops elsewhere online.
• Share links directly to images.
• Pass them around in mass.
• Make prints.
• Use images for web banners or graphics. (send a quick email to ask, I’m pretty easy going about this with permission.)
• Use them in commercial work.

If you help me out with these I will be able to keep doing what I love to do. Thanks again, really, for your support and understanding. -J

——

By downloading any content from fiftyfootshadows.net you agree to the following terms:

All of the images contained within this website, fiftyfootshadows.net, are property of, John Carey unless otherwise posted. The images are distributed as freeware but they are available for personal use only on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone as your wallpaper image. Any use of these images for any purpose other than this is a violation of these terms and anyone found using said images will be asked to either compensate the creator for doing so or be asked to stop using them immediately.

I ask that you refrain from using any images found on fiftyfootshadows.net to create physically printed material of any kind. This includes posters, photographic prints, fliers, etc. Under no circumstances may you make a physical reproduction without written permission.

These rules also apply for any artwork or imagery submitted and shown within this site which was created by an artist aside from myself. Any images submitted and shared as wallpapers are the property of the artist who created them and in the same manner as my images, you are asked to receive permission before using them in any way aside from their intended use. Any use of these images outside of for your own personal use as a desktop wallpaper image is prohibited without permission from the author of the image. Commercial licensing is available upon request. Please write with any inquiries.

When sharing images via your personal blogs I kindly ask that you link back directly to either the post the image was taken from or the base of the website at www.fiftyfootshadows.net and give a credit to www.fiftyfootshadows.net. Do not re-post full resolution desktop images anywhere without permission. If you would like to use an image for your blog background or something of the sort simply write to ask first. Support the artwork you admire! Also, it is greatly appreciated if you do NOT link directly to the zip files. This is more or less the same as re-posting them as it circumvents the tiny bit of support I ask of you which is to simply link back to the original post for others to enjoy the site.

It’s not fair to artists if you do not credit their work and link back to the original content creator. It is theft plain and simple and blogs that attempt to somehow be mysterious by not giving credit to the creators are simply hurting the artistic community as a whole. If you love it so much then please, support it! The artistic community on the Internet is based on trust. Without trust then what do we have? are you going to be one of the responsible users out there or will you be among the bottom feeders, stealing content and passing it off as your own to make a quick buck in ad sales.

Use your best judgement and we will get along just fine.

Thank you for your understanding and support!

John Carey (curator, owner)

fiftyfootshadows.net

fiftyfootshadows@gmail.com