The time that Tony Fadell sold me a container of hummus

In 1950, the American psychologist Harry Harlow conducted an experiment that separated infant monkeys from their mothers just a few hours after birth. Each monkey was isolated in a cage and given two dummy mothers. One mother was constructed of metal wire and held a milk bottle; another was covered in synthetic fur and designed to resemble a real monkey, but it provided no sustenance.

Instinctually, Harlow assumed the infants would gravitate towards the metal mother because it provided a basic need: nourishment.

Much to his surprise, the infants preferred the animate mother despite her lack of milk. In fact, when the two mothers were placed side by side, the infants would suck milk from the metal mother and cling to the more realistic looking dummy.

Despite receiving all of the physical nourishment they required, the infant monkeys displayed much higher levels of anxiety and aggression as they matured. The obvious conclusion is that most creatures have immediate physical needs — be it sustenance or shelter — but there is a large emotional component that needs to be nourished as well.

Harlow’s monkeys preferred the animate mother because they were not just seeking milk, they were desperate for an emotional bond.

Function lies at the core of every manufactured object, be it a door knob or a chair. We design objects to solve problems, to fulfill needs; whether it’s something we take for granted, like our effortless passage into another room, or a comfortable place to sit.

That said, there has been conflict tugging at the core of our design principles since Louis Sullivan popularized “Form follows function” at the dawn of the 20th century. Function may be the fundamental concern for many designers, but how strictly to cling to this maxim? Some, including Austrian architect Adolf Loos, would go so far as to call ornamentation a crime.

To flesh this out, let us consider an object that is primarily functional: the La-Z-Boy reclining chair, deliberately built for comfort and relaxation. All of its features are geared towards function, from its puffy cushioning to the side-mounted handle that allows us to recline for a nap. Some might say that its design is so explicitly functional that it is, for lack of a better word, ugly.

  • Kui parim kala maailmas on siiakala, siis viimase aja parim pala on see siin! Hea töö!

  • I'm pleased - like "Eat, Pray, Love" but much better: "Drink, scratch, interrupt"