Function follows Form?

Which should come first, function or form? This debate has raged for years, and it doesn’t look like a definitive answer is close to being found. So, let’s look at them both.


Form (chosen first purely down to alphabetic order) has been prioritised a lot in the creative industries, especially in advertising and marketing, where the look and feel are often the first, second and third things to be considered.  In channels where the visual impression is a significant goal, you may often find designs that prioritise form over function.


Function is likely to be prioritised in any design where the primary goal is to create engagement and some form of action on the consumer’s part. If the design is for a brochure, this could mean filling in a form, a call to action, or even retaining the brochure for future reference. The point is that there is a desired action that is more important than the visual impact.

Designing What You Like

The biggest issue is not whether you use form or function, as choosing is part of the process, as either is in response to the needs of the user. Problems arise when the needs of other parties divert or dilute the needs of the user, such as the designer, the client, or other stakeholders. As soon as your design is primarily driven by what you like, it starts to mean less and less to the end user. If you design a logo, brand or corporate identity based on what you like, unless your customers are identical to you in profile and preference your design will not do what it is meant to do.

Designing What You Need

Incidentally, designing purely based on what you need is not necessarily the answer to achieving the best design. If function completely negates the look and feel of a design project, then an opportunity to promote a whole host of benefits that look and feel can convey. The form of any design project is essential in communicating implied features and benefits.

Battle between function and form Toast Branding

Balancing Form and Function

As with a lot of things in life and design – balance is key. Professional designers spend their careers honing and improving their ability to balance both form and function of a given design job. They specialise in taking your personal preferences and incorporating them into a design that considers them but is not driven by them. The key is to deliver a project that delivers on both but is always led by the end user’s needs.

Designing for the User

If your designer is applying their personal preferences or the preferences of the agency, they work for you need to question their approach. Professional designers should never let their personal preferences interfere with the design; they should always consider the User. If anyone other than the User is prioritised, then the design project will not be as successful as it could be or in the worst case, completely fail. The user-driven design will always achieve its goal.

Designing for the Brand

Any brand that wishes to be successful needs to balance form and function and be completely dedicated to the end User. Brands tend to fail when they lose sight of the user’s needs and preferences and start following trends or fashion. If you are unsure if your brand has lost its way, then consider a brand audit or assessment to ensure it still reflects your core values and goals.


If there is any conclusion to be drawn from the above, other than the stated need for balance between form and function, is the importance of a good brief based on a thorough understanding of the need. If you don’t have a crystal clear understanding of whom you want to engage and what you want them to do you need to revisit the brief and clarify those points. Only then can you hope to get the balance needed for the design project to be a success!


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