Why does a nice corporate logo look…so corporate? The answer is well thought out readability, and reproducibility in all mediums. That is the reason so many large, effective corporations have simple, effective logos.
The first mention of the phrase could be ascribed to the American sculptor Horatio Greenough, who in 1852 was relating it to the organic principles of architecture.
The American architect Louis Sullivan, who admired rationalist thinkers like Greenough, Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman and Melville – picked it up, in 1896, in his article «The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered». Here Sullivan actually said “form ever follows function”, but the simpler (and less emphatic) phrase is the one usually remembered. For Sullivan this was distilled wisdom, an aesthetic credo, the single “rule that shall permit of no exception”. The full quote is thus:
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.
Sullivan developed the shape of the tall steel skyscraper in late 19th Century Chicago at the very moment when technology, taste and economic forces converged violently and made it necessary to drop the established styles of the past. If the shape of the building wasn’t going to be chosen out of the old pattern book something had to determine form, and according to Sullivan it was going to be the purpose of the building. It was “form follows function”, as opposed to “form follows precedent”. Sullivan’s assistant Frank Lloyd Wright adopted and professed the same principle in slightly different form—perhaps because shaking off the old styles gave them more freedom and latitude.