Theory Week Three – What is Form? 

I created this collage by collecting together forms that I found interesting from magazines, and then seeing what emerged as I put them together.

Form as a noun is defined as the ‘visible shape or configuration of something’ and the ‘particular way in which a thing exists or appears’.(  Architectural form is ‘the point of contact between mass and space.’ (Edmund N Bacon, The Design of Cities, 1974).


‘Cheese-grater’ carpark in Sheffield City Centre

Form, Space and Function 

We were taught that in interior design form and space are considered simultaneously and that it is difficult to think about form without thinking about function – as designers we need to ask ‘does the space work? Does it perform its function?’ I’m aware that there have been a number of different schools of though regarding the relationship between form and function – the most memorable being that form should follow function – that we think about how something is to be used and its aesthetic qualities will naturally follow.  Design to me is thinking about both simultaneously, finding solutions that both work and are aesthetically pleasing.

Use and Beauty 

My favourite idea regarding form and function comes from William Morris, and I think of it every time I hear my nan saying ‘it’s neither use nor ornament’! Morris had a golden rule  to have “nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

Form and Design

  • In design we should always be thinking in terms of proportions and geometry.  The space should be consistent and logical.
  • We can respond to existing forms in our designs, or can choose to design in order to contrast with them.
  • A designer performs a similar role to a chef or musician in that they will select and consider the elements to be brought together in order to create. In design those elements are things such as shapes, material and styles.
  • Design should always perform its function and be aesthetically pleasing.
  • Through analysing the space and using geometry to compose we can achieve a good composition.
  • In design the axis point is important – all lines in plans should ideally refer back to this as a reference point.
  • Good design does not have to be regimented but it does have to be well considered and composed.

My personal preference is for non regimented design:


Part of my ‘triangle wall’ at home

Creating Form

Form can be created by starting with a single dot, making it into a line, making the line into a triangle, making the triangle into a 3D shape etc… We transform shapes by changing their dimensions, height, tilting their axis, taking away some volume or adding elements.

Different Types of Form 

  1. Spatial Tension is where forms are close together or share a visual characteristic e.g. colour or shape.
  2. Interlocking is where forms use parts of each others space.
  3. Edge to edge is where forms share an edge.
  4. Face to face is where some surfaces are parallel to each other.
  5. Centralised is where there is one form in the middle and other, usually smaller, forms are around it.
  6. Linear is where forms are arranged in a row.
  7. Radial is where linear forms radiate away from a central form.
  8. Clustered is where forms are grouped by being near to one another or that share a visual characteristic.
  9. Grid is where there is a set of forms within a regimented grid.

Spatial tension (gold and white spots), interlocking forms (triangles) and linear forms (yellow and brown) in the wrapping paper I recently framed (cheap art!) I’m afraid I don’t know the name of the graphic designer who created these patterns.

Using Form 

The golden ratio is widely thought to produce the most aesthetically appealing results.  It is found throughout nature, art, architecture and design:


Georges Seurat – Bathers at Asnières, from

‘Dr. Mario Livio made a very interesting claim in the book The Golden Ratio about the paintings of the French Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat …the compositional lines suggest a conscious decision to use the golden ratio as well as the rule of thirds.’  (

Artists, designers and architects work with form in all kinds of ways in order to create their work.  Libeskind uses random irregular patterns in order to create floor plans, and Lloyd Wright would use a shape and its repetition, changing its dimensions, in his architectural plans. Le Corbussier had an interest in the proportions of the human body and demonstrated that every part of the body is at a certain ratio. He then used proportion in his architecture and interiors.


Textile design by Edouard Benedictus

From I have only just come across this artist/scientist/designer/writer/composer (!) in a book I just bought on Art Deco.  I absolutely love the geometric forms in his designs!


In groups we were tasked with drawing one 2D form and repeating it.  W could change the dimensions, overlap, and interlock the shapes if we wished. From the shapes that we had composed we were then to create a floor plan.

We chose hexagons, which were going to be difficult to draw as regular forms in such a tight timescale, so we went irregular!

I found the initial part of this task really quite difficult.  I began to think we should have used a simpler form.  I found it difficult to compose irregular hexagons at speed in order that they would be aesthetically pleasing.

However, after we had come up with something that we were relatively happy with, and we started to think about how to make our shapes into a room plan, I became much happier with our work.  The key action that seemed to make the plan work and become more aesthetically pleasing was to remove some of the internal sides of the overlapping hexagons. At this stage it started to look like a floor plan. We decided on making it into the plan of a restaurant, and I am really pleased with the results.  I am also really grateful to Eve who I worked with, as she showed me how to draw some elements of the plan (being part time i’m not studying technical drawing until next academic year!)

One issue that I have noticed is that our toilet facilities are not in proportion! They need to be bigger!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s