Form follows function.
Easily spoken, one could translate that as follows: “The form results from the function” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Like you just have to think up the function, and then the form comes into being? It’s not that simple.
A more correct translation would be: “The form supports the task”. Aha! It already becomes a very concrete design guideline. The form no longer becomes a more or less random result, and the word task makes it clear that it is about the intended use.
If you look at hörbert’s on/off switch, for example, it could sit anywhere in terms of function. The form would be arbitrary, and left only to the taste of the designer. But there is still the task for the overall product: hörbert is designed for use by children, and therefore robustness, safety, reparability, play value and satisfaction are among its tasks. They bring a benefit to the owners.
You can already see the robustness of the switch, and you can hear and feel it immediately. This switch has been developed for much larger tasks, can switch much larger currents, and is actually completely oversized for hörbert – but with intent: Its bold CLACK! when switching already contains a play value and a satisfaction in itself. All you have to do is look at a toddler, who is busy with the switch until it can grip it reliably and flip it over.
However, safety must not be sacrificed for the play value and satisfaction. The electrical voltage and the current from the batteries is too small to endanger the safety of the child, but there is also the risk of injury from physics:
To ensure safety against injuries, the switch lever is only short. The switch is also flanked on the left by hörbert’s handle and on the right by hörbert’s volume control so that it does not point freely outwards like a small spit. Instead, higher and rounded elements on the left and right can absorb an impact from body parts. The result: The relatively thin rocker arm cannot drill into a body part.
Why exactly do we use this switch? The stick of the switch on this model is designed in such a way that children cannot get caught between the stick and the switch housing. Almost all stick switches have a very large opening at this point, into which dirt and dust as well as the skin between the fingers can fall. Not so with hörbert.
In addition, the gear stick is mounted from the inside, so that it can’t be torn off with any force.
The only force that can damage the switch at all must hit the stick from above in order to hit it inwards through the housing – if you hit it correctly. This is the moment when reparability brings a benefit: In order to be able to replace the switch, we do not simply solder it to hörberts electronics, but use a plug on the cable and a suitable socket on hörberts electronics. Thus the switch can be simply unscrewed, unplugged, exchanged and screwed back on again. With a little bit of technical understanding, tools and skill this even works at home.