I was thinking about the phrase form over function today. A person who values function over form I would call utilitarian.

What about the opposite, when someone values form over function? I could not think of an adjective to describe this quite as succinctly.

What is an adjective for someone who values elegance over utility? I suppose this might be an antonym for utilitarian.

  • As a side note, in my work with computer programming, we often use the mantra "form follows function" to keep uus focused on getting the underlying mechanics working properly before worrying about the user interface details.
    – polarysekt
    Sep 20 '14 at 23:00

Actually, a utilitarian would count the beauty of something as part of its utility.

An "artist" or an "aesthete" would value form.

In philosophy, utilitarianism is a school of thought. There are other schools of thought that are often contrasted with utilitarianism.


Since such a person would be concerned only by appearance and not with function, I would describe them as being superficial

2 a : concerned only with the obvious or apparent : shallow
b : seen on the surface : external
c : presenting only an appearance without substance or significance
Merriam Webster

  • Utilitarian seems to value function over form. What about someone who valued them equally? Sep 20 '14 at 16:53
  • Superficial in the larger sense means interested only in obvious or surface details, and I think to say it is the opposite of utilitarian reflects a certain bias. One can appreciate beauty intellectually and scientifically, and to ignore that the human mind appreciates beauty suggests a different kind of superficiality, which reduces the value of all things to numerical comparisons.
    – choster
    Sep 20 '14 at 21:39
  • @Gary'sStudent- That an excellent question, but what does it have to do with my answer or OP's question?
    – Jim
    Sep 20 '14 at 21:57
  • @choster- You have a truly dizzying intellect. "...interested in obvious or surface details" - Yes, they are interested in what it looks like not what it does. They'd rather have something that looks nice but doesn't work than something that works but doesn't look nice- I'd call that being superficial.
    – Jim
    Sep 20 '14 at 22:02
  • @choster- I really am lost on how the human mind's capacity for appreciating beauty either intellectually or scientifically (whatever that means) comes into play here. I think even a full-on utilitarian would likely admit that something is beautiful, they just would be unlikely to choose it over something that was less beautiful but worked better or did more. I imagine that ceteris paribus even a utilitarian would choose what they perceived to be the most beautiful of two objects.
    – Jim
    Sep 20 '14 at 22:21

Frivolous - not having serious value or purpose. While "superficial" could work, it may not work in all cases, as there can be utilitarian applications of something superficial (think: facades on buildings) but something frivolous has no purpose at all.

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