Functional Aesthetics

The Definition of Need

The Functionalist movement provided a very limited definition of "need" at least partially in reaction to a similarly limited definition of "need" in use by the eclectic designers of the 19th century. The Functionalists reduced the definition of need to "the need of physical efficiency in accomplishing the programmatic task for which an element or environment was designed." The eclectic designers had reduced it to "the need for adherence to a socially acceptable 'code' by every building in the form of a applied 'style' or 'character.'" The principle was followed even at the expense of the efficiency of the design in fulfilling programmatic tasks.

Prior to this great polarisation in the debate, the definition of need had oscillated between social need, and efficiency. The major protagonists in the debates created works that, though occasionally extreme with respect to each other, were understood in terms of the various needs of various users, needs, the understandings of which evolved over time with reactions to and inspirations from competing theories and ideas.

  • The relief of the stress to understand our environment (that we might cope with it) is generally a positive emotion, as it helps understand our environment. Balanced, symmetrical and simple shapes are easily recognised by our perceptual mechanisms. Is the definition of beauty merely the speed with which something may be recognised?
  • Satisfying the needs of the user often includes the creation of designs that frustrate or challenge the user on some level to increase an effect on another level. For instance, an advertisement frustrates the user by denying them the product, but sets up ideas of success, happiness, sex appeal and the like that should be triggered by possessing the product. At least, that's the official line.
  • The explicit denial of meaning, the presentation of challenges, and "playing with the user," fulfils needs for challenge and stimulation among others.
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Document Name: tb.percept.need.htm
Copyright (c) 1997 -- Mike Fletcher
Reproduction for other than personal use prohibited without express written permission from the author.