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Is there a word to describe an object that excels in form and function? I am trying to avoid very general words like great, superb or excellent.

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"It is truly useful since it is beautiful." -- The Little Prince –  AlbeyAmakiir Jul 27 '12 at 6:23
    
@AlbeyAmakiir I love that reference. Am I correct in thinking it implies that anything that is beautiful is intrinsically useful? –  LordScree Jul 27 '12 at 9:34
    
Is there a reason why you need a single word, and not a phrase? Can you provide more context? –  KitFox Jul 27 '12 at 11:18
    
Can you tell us more about this 'object' of yours? –  5arx Jul 27 '12 at 13:18
    
@LordScree: I seem to remember some argument, I think from a pop science magazine, that the perception of beauty is an evolved response to usefulness, which makes some sense - that we would be attracted to things that are good for us. Of course, evolution only works in a specific environment, and traits like this can be tricked. –  naught101 Jul 28 '12 at 11:29

10 Answers 10

up vote 58 down vote accepted

Could it be described as an elegant solution or an engineering marvel?

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+1, I particularly like elegant –  Cameron Jul 27 '12 at 2:05
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Elegant could be tough to top; my online thesaurus lists stylish, graceful, and aestetic, but also effective, ingenious, and inventive. –  J.R. Jul 27 '12 at 4:08
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+1 Elegant is widespread in math and computing. catb.org/jargon/html/E/elegant.html –  György Andrasek Jul 27 '12 at 8:18

Something that is well-designed is intentionally planned and created so that it is both useful and appealing (sometimes beautiful).

Here are some examples in which it is used:

Well-designed logos

Well-designed products

Well-designed gardens

Well-designed websites

Well-designed rooms

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Doesn't work for evolved things though - like hands. –  naught101 Jul 28 '12 at 11:30
    
@naught, But it can. As an example, from an article on pandas: "Their hand is not well designed but it works effectively based on what was available." –  JLG Jul 28 '12 at 14:46

The context is unclear, but I suppose the word something refers to an actual object.

I'd suggest the adjective "streamlined."

It's defined as:

  • Designed or arranged to offer the least resistance to fluid flow; reduced to essentials
  • Having flowing, graceful lines; sleek
  • Improved in appearance or efficiency; modernized

For me, this word encompasses beauty in both form and function.

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Seems very centred around engineering of vehicles and doesn't lend itself well to other concepts. My new Gaggia coffee machine is not streamlined. –  5arx Jul 27 '12 at 12:12
    
Yes, I think so too. But beauty of form and function? –  Cool Elf Jul 27 '12 at 13:01
    
For me it has to be @cornbread ninja's 'elegant'. Its a word that is also used generically in engineering disciplines. e.g. elegant design, elegant software/code or an elegant solution. Another word, though it suggests something is well-suited to its purpose might be 'apt'. Or 'ideal'? –  5arx Jul 27 '12 at 13:11
    
Well, it depends so much on the context. Why don't you ask the OP to give more? –  Cool Elf Jul 27 '12 at 13:17

I suggest calling it the acme ("The top or highest point; pinnacle; culmination") or the pinnacle ("The highest point"; "An all-time high; a point of greatest achievement or success") of perfection. Also consider terms like standout ("An exceptional or noteworthy person or thing"), superlative ("The highest extent or degree of something"; "An adjective used to praise something exceptional"), crème de la crème ("Best of the best; something superlative; the very best"), or ace ("Used as an exclamation to mean excellent").

Note a problem with some earlier suggestions: the terms elegant, well-designed, streamlined are sometimes used of items that have excellent form but fall down on function. But careful speakers might use the first two of those terms only of items that exhibit excellence in both form and function.

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Having watched Wiley E Coyote get blown up/crunched into an accordion/etc thousands of times as a kid, quality is never the first thing that comes to mind when I see the word "acme". I doubt many people even know the work has another meaning any longer. –  Dan Neely Jul 27 '12 at 14:45
    
Even if the terms "elegant, well-designed" do connote items that "fall down on function" (with which I disagree), "acme, standout" and your other examples don't particularly suggest form and function. The OP specifically asked for words that are not general. –  dj18 Jul 27 '12 at 14:50

I suggest the adjective "perfect". Not only does it communicate the notion that the object embodies the characteristics of consummate beauty and utility, but that by any other measure or characteristic that is appreciated, the object is...dare I say it, perfect.

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"Perfect" sounds just as general as "great" or "superb." Yes, it does mean "great in every way," but it doesn't specify "form and function." –  dj18 Jul 27 '12 at 14:45

Gestalt? It is oft used in design circles I believe. It refers to wholeness in design with form and function firmly in mind. The most positive qualities of those individual parts making up the wholeness is presumed. It wouldn't make sense for such a word to refer to the ugly bits making up a wholesome object. One of those aesthetic form qualities could be the adjective beautiful.

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I think neat could work as well.

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Exquisite, polished or "exquisitely polished".

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Amazing, exquisite, marvy, simple, outstanding, fine, neat, inventive

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The best answer that comes to my mind is the word nifty.

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