Dress up a bunny
like a savage, rabid wolf
Still hoppity hop

Here's the baby I've been working on for the past month-plus:

At times, packaging the servos appropriately felt like a nearly impossible task, especially when constrained to the footprint (or handprint) of a standard robotic grasper.

During the design, one thing kept coming to mind: "Form follows function," that oft-repeated phrase that product design specialists and bloggers like throwing around so much. What bullshit.

Well, bullshit in the way that designers like to use the term, like it's some catch-all methodology that defines the truly ground-breaking products of today. Sure, form often separates products of equal function and has its own value, but I'd argue we rarely have the opportunity to develop form and function side by side. Function always comes first and ultimately decides the form. It just so happens that in some cases, there are enough alternative ways to satisfy the desired function that the engineer gains some latitude on the final form.

Otherwise, there's always some sacrifice to be made, and some functionality to give up. It's just a question of how much functionality those design changes are worth. Can Apple afford to exchange the cost upcharge and decrease in repairability for a sleeker chassis? Apparently. Can a prototype robotic hand dependent on 3rd-party components in limited supply sacrifice modularity to decrease that base footprint by 10%? Usually not. Form follows function taken literally is usually the way of life. Using it as the blanket catch-all solution for your design woes is just a pipe dream.

The designer who forgets that may up with a shiny paperweight. Then again, the engineer stuck with the ugly prototype probably didn't bother considering other paths to the same function.

Of course, no way that applies to me, right? I'm a professional =P