Week 23 - Classifying Structural Forms and Functions

Exercise 1.2

Lesson 1.2: The Function of Structures

ACTIVITY A: Function and Aesthetics

Required Readings

Science in Action 7
pages 269 to 275

Science Focus 7

pages 282 to 285

Rube Goldberg

Designer? Engineer? No! Cartoonist. He loved to draw cartoons of large complicated machines, which would do simple tasks.

Go to this website to view the artwork gallery.

Form and Function

Before you got going this morning, I hope you sat down and had a bowl of cereal for breakfast. In doing so, you probably pulled out a bowl and a spoon. Have you ever wonder how many ways there are to make that bowl and spoon? What are the basic characteristics that all bowls and spoons have?

With anything that we create, we must first ask,what it will be used for? What will its function be? For the bowl, you will want to be able to fill it with a combination of solids and liquids, however you will want the liquid to surround the solids in the bowl and not drain away. The function of the spoon will be to bring the food to your mouth and it should work for both liquids an solids. So when you think of bowls and spoons the forms or designs which come to mind will consists of the same basic principals. The spoon will have a handle to hold onto and curved ladle for picking up food and placing it in your mouth. Because the spoon is intended to go into your mouth is should not be too big or too small.

So the form, the appearance or shape of a structure, that objects takes must following the function they are meant to serve. "Form follows function!" This principal can be applied to most things created on the planet. Even in nature, bird will create nests that serve the function of a shelter and a place to raise young.

It is rare that structures have only one function. Here are some common words used to describe the functions of objects.

  • Containing
  • Transporting
  • Sheltering
  • Supporting
  • Lifting
  • Fastening
  • Separating
  • Communicating
  • Breaking
  • Holding
  • Aesthetics (how something looks)

"Why, those are a perfectly good pair of running shoes, why do you need to have the more expensive pair?"

I bet you have heard this before as you shopped for a new pair of shoes with your parents. This is the difference between basic form and function and aesthetics. Aesthetics is the term we use when discussing the look and beauty of a structure rather that its scientific or practical function. Your parents see a pair of shoes which meet the basic needs of protecting the feet and providing long wearability. You see another pair that also provides the basic functionality of the shoe, but the design fits with the current definitions of beauty and fashionable looks. It does not matter that this shoe costs twice as much - mom and dad are paying for them. This is the cost you are willing to pay to get a pair of shoes with high aesthetic appeal. In plain English that means trendy and stylish.

Parents are often accused by their children of being out of fashion or loosing their eye for aesthetics. In defense of parents, this is usually not the case. Many things around your home, were fashionable at the time they were purchased. Parents have just learned about the reality of money and being the most fashionable parents on the block is an expensive venture if it requires them to replace old structures and tools once they no longer look good. Aesthetics deal with the look of the structure rather than the function. It places more value on a structure if it looks good. Media and advertising deals mainly with the aesthetic appeal of a structure - "eye candy, as it is so called". The aesthetics of a structure appeal to the emotions of a person. Where a basic structure performs a basic "need", boosted aesthetics appeal to the human "want".

Exercise 1.2: Function and Aesthetics