Form follows function–that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
- Frank Lloyd Wright
To me, typeface design is one of the best examples of form that embodies function. Here, form isn’t just something extra, stuck on top of the underlying thing to give it a nice appearance or add meaning–no, here the form is the function. They’re inseparable because there can be no font without the letter, and the letters themselves are the form.
Each letter of a font has a certain shape and style. The shape and appearance of each font gives it its own unique character and soul, but the shape itself also gives the letter its function, its shape is the meaning of the letter. There are many styles of fonts: serious, bold, ornate, subtle, fun, simple, embellished, plain; yet in every case there is nothing superfluous about the design of the letters–they simply take shape to embody a different character–in all meanings of that word.
And so it is with great design: the thing itself gets character and soul through the form it takes–the form is never stuck on top as an afterthought, or even created before the thing itself is finished, like an empty frame waiting for its painting.