Functionalism means that the design is above all orientated towards the practical, utilitarian use of a building or everyday object, so that purpose and functionality take priority over aesthetic principles.
Historically, the term relates to modern architecture and product design from the first half of the 20th century. The architect Louis Henry Sullivan’s statement that “form follows function” became a proclaimed programme during this period. It represents the vision that beauty in architecture and industrial design is the result of the respective function. From this developed a rational style as a counterpoint to historicism, a style which emphasised purpose and construction, and favoured basic geometric shapes and right-angles. In Germany, this concept came to full fruition after World War Two, and was a common feature of product design up to and including the 1980s. Functional, sober industrial design can for example be seen in designs by the Ulm School of Design or by Braun’s Head Designer, Dieter Rams.