Author: Dustin Wax
Dustin M. Wax is a freelance writer and anthropologist with a long-standing interest in design. You can contact him or find links to his work around the Web at his site at dustinwax.com.
Look at what you've made. Beautiful, isn't it? But does it work? For whom does it work? Of course you can use it, but can anyone else? In short, is it functional?
At the heart of every piece of practical design, whether it be a website, product package, office building, manufacturing system, piece of furniture, software interface, book cover, tool, or anything else, there is a function, a task the item is expected to perform. Most functions can be achieved in a variety of ways, but there are some basic elements a designer needs to take into account to create a product that best fulfills its intended function.
These are the elements of functional design, the process of responding to the needs or desires of the people who will use an item in a way that allows their needs or desires to be met. Functional design is both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, it describes products that work well to perform their assigned tasks; as a process, functional design is a set of practices guided by the principles that produce that positive outcome. (Functional design is also a computer modeling technique, but that's not what we're discussing here.)Read more...