Close Up of the Wainright Building St Louis Missouri

If form follows function, then function follows process

Photo by Jack Boucher: Wainright Building, St. Louis, Missouri. Architect: Louis Sullivan

You've probably heard Louis Sullivan's maxim, "Form follows function." Sullivan, while not as well known as his famous pupil, Frank Lloyd Wright, has been called the father of the modern skyscraper and even the father of modern architecture.

In 1896, Louis Sullivan wrote:

"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human, and all things super-human, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law." (italics in original)

Form follows function was at the heart of modern architecture in the 20th century, and the phrase eventually made its way into common usage. For the modernist, how a thing looks (form) is a manifestation of how it works (function). 

If form follows function, then, I believe, function follows process.

  • First, process.
  • Then, function.
  • And last, form.

Form - the room, the building, the piece of furniture - is visible. Function, while not always visible, is apparent. You can cook in the kitchen, or you cannot. The chair is comfortable to sit in, or it is not.

Process is invisible. You can't see it, yet it is the very basis of both form and function. Process takes design ideas, inspiration, and information and puts them to work. 

All artists and designers have a process. They have a way that they approach their craft, steps that lead from concept to creation. Artists work at creating. So, a magical creation is often the product of a mundane process. 

If you can't figure out how you want your new room to look, take two steps back. Find and follow a design process - one that shows you how to identify the function and form of your new space. 


She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas.

Connect with Jackie by emailing

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