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The Rules of Genius #17: Match form to function, function to form

Form doesn’t always follow function. Sometimes it works the other way around. The rule is simply this: form and function should be inseparable. When the shape of something matches its intended purpose, the marriage seems inevitable, as if no other combination could exist. This is the rightness component of beauty, the quality that sends clear signals of authenticity, integrity, honesty, and wholeness.

Reflect on the inevitability of a hammer, with its sculpted metal head and curved claw, and a handle shaped to your hand. Or the strong, angled strokes of an uppercase A, immediately recognizable as the first letter of the Roman alphabet. Or consider the intuitive gestures of a touchscreen interface that lets you scroll, swipe, click, or rotate. Think about the design of a business in which customers, employees, owners, and suppliers all get something they want, and are happy to give something valuable in return. These are examples of form and function in perfect alignment.

Put yourself at the mercy of your material. Feel its desire. Spin the wheel of your imagination until the ball stops on the right answer. When you find the match, you’ll feel a tiny thrill of satisfaction. Tune your sensitivity to this feeling, and learn to be dissatisfied until you find it.

This is not to say that a genius would never consciously mismatch form and function. But even in this case, the mismatched pair would be a good match if it fulfilled its purpose. Remember, rule number one is to break the rules.

Next week: Don’t be boring
Creative surprise is your secret weapon

The Rules of Genius is now a book with a bonus section called “How can I matter?” that includes 10 essential rules.  Buy here.

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