Why Form Follows Function

Design is Always Intentional. Never Arbitrary.

One of the most fundamental design principles everyone should know, is that beauty in a well designed product is the outcome of achieving success criteria. For some this can mean users adopting a product such as an app, for others this can mean success in users not using a product or behaving in a way that may be harmful. Form follows function. Sounds familiar?


Some of my first poster designs above optimized for legibility, provocation, and extreme affordability from > 25 ft. away.

Why Business Leaders Need to Know This

Through the lens of marketing, product management, and strategic decision-making, this means a series of trade offs in the allocation of resources. Consider a team designing a new watch that tells surfers when there’s an oncoming swell. They have a finite set of resources. Their goal is to validate their assumption that the watch is dependable, accurate, and durable in extreme conditions – most of all, that surfers will use it. How do they decide what to spend on?

The correct answer is, whatever achieves the success criteria. While aesthetics and ornamentation play a key role in persuasion and fashion, it should be considered in light of the product’s primary success criteria – giving surfers a waterproof watch that accurately displays data. Now consider a team designing a watch meant to be worn by a model in a fashion magazine shoot. The success criteria changes considerably. A lone diamond at the top of the bezel and a minimalist design will work to turn heads in a culturally relevant way.


Now here’s the mic drop: Meet your success criteria, and your product will have achieved optimal form. The question should not be, what is more important – rather, what factors are most important in order to meet our success criteria? Design is always intentional, never arbitrary.

Here are a few examples of success criteria:

  • Legibility
  • Comprehensibility
  • Aversion
  • Artistic integrity
  • Durability
  • Speed and accuracy
  • Differentiation
  • Extreme affordability

What was your favorite part? Did you like it?