Form Studies

Published on Oct 23, 2023


Before a good designer jumps into form studies they must first understand the function (some). You don’t need to abstain too long though, while form follows function, when inspiration strikes early you want to try to flow with it. Some of your earliest ideas are often your best.

Like all things cyclical, the development of form goes hand in hand with the development of function. Yin and Yang. Don’t assume one or the other is ever done, they are forever playing off each other. Your job is to balance the form and function. Your job is to turn form and function into [[pleasure, control, or access]].

I like to start my form studies on Paper. First by architecting the information and functions in a kind of logic, then starting to bring in visual references / mood. The mood can be anything. Anything that evokes the feeling you want to conjure. Sketching is nice because you can easily blend the fidelity.

Blended fidelity is good. Use wireframes to quickly draw new ideas, but don’t be afraid to mix them. If your wireframes are neutral enough, they won’t take away from the aesthetic of the high fidelity work.

Make way more than you need. Work fast, optimizing for quantity in the beginning. The sketches / concepts you bring into form start to act as the forces on your design space. The perimeter. The more quantity you design at the beginning the more you make sure you have the right perimeter, the right forces.

It’s also good to share a lot at this stage. Forge relationships around you where your collaborators expect to see the mess. This is great for alignment, and it helps your partners (who will also be evaluating your work) avoid getting too attached to one individual idea. Once anyone has evaluated a long list of like things, they start to see the tradeoffs in making design decisions.

Use your intuition but also come back and check your work. Goals, measures, problem/solution statements, etc. As you start to develop a preference in the form studies you’ve produced, always go back to your requirements and see if you’re evaluating in the expected way. We guide our work towards externalities.

If you need to use words in your form studies, use real ones. Dummy text is a missed opportunity to move your work forward and start blending the function with the form.


We are seeing form studies out loud in the casing of AI.