Friday, 4 December 2015

Form following function - forget it.

A novel handbag perhaps, born of the jaded imagination of a designer who has tired of creating dress reticules in Italian leather, beads and embroidered silk? A computer with a built-in carry handle – like those old-fashioned transistor radios – designed for executives who can check their complexions in its shiny surface before dashing into meetings – or maybe it is a transistor? A novelty jewellery box with lights that flash every time it is open/shut? No; it’s a toaster, friends – a sandwich toaster, to be exact. Two generations ago, when designers decreed that form should follow function, such an appliance would have screamed its purpose, sitting squarely and proudly on a kitchen counter, and nudging fiercely any other electrical impostor that dared to try to make it redundant. Those days have flown. A quick trawl of the net reveals that all appliances have shed their edges, having been honed and trimmed into round-cornered chumminess – let’s all get along together, shall we? And so many appliances now resemble one another; no individual pride anymore, but a desire to look universally cute and cuddly, what with vacuum cleaners that look like human faces, and computers that resemble cosmetic purses, and cocktail shakers that double up as glow sticks. It could be down to the plastic surgery mentality, the idea that we must all hack and sculpt the protruding pieces of ourselves to try to resemble some notional ideal, extending to gadgetry. More likely, it is designers competing with one another to shoe-horn electronic circuitry into ever more improbable configurations. Fashions have a habit of growing tired, however, and I suspect that one day we will wake up to a whole new generation of rugged, unglamorous and unpretentious toasters, grinders, kettles – but not any time soon.

No comments: