In the heyday of strict modernism, when Xerox PARC invented the air vent menu in the early seventies, it was the doctrine of “form follows function” that ruled the art – and design–world. From architecture to applied graphical user interfaces; nothing could escape the modernist inquisition.
Intimidation on the Scene
In their attempt to stifle free expression and impose only the most rigorous treatment of the formal properties of art (– shape, color, line, texture and so on), upon every artistic expression that dared to raise it’s ugly head on the scene, the modernistic critics went to great lenghts to establish their authority, not only on the artistical output, but went so far as to also intimidate individual artists themselves.
Form Follows Fact
It is a well established fact that the function of the air vent in graphical interfaces is to keep the window 1 cool. Translated into the modernistic jargon of the day the form follows function doctrine demands nothing less than straight lines: horizontal and vertical, (only diagonal if it can not be avoided). The shape just has to be geometrical, preferably a rectangle. That is how the air vent, back in the day, transformed into the hamburger menu icon.
Where the Old Masters created an illusion of space into which one could imagine walking, the illusion created by a Modernist is one into which one can look, can travel through, only with the eye. Clement Greenberg
If You Can’t Beat Them
The inescapable hamburger; it’s ubiquitous, on so many websites now that you kind of miss it when it’s not there. But does it really has to be like this? The inventor of the icon himself, Norm Cox, deliberately left the hamburger out on his own website and so you should too!
Let’s Move On
This is the twentyfirst century and we survived modernism, post-modernism, and are right in the middle of hyper-modernism. It is time to move on and make it homely for ourselves and our families now. I propose the reinstatement of the airfan icon. The computer screen still needs fresh air, and what better icon than the airfan to provide for this? But more importantly, we need to break free from the chains of ingrained habits, and embrace the round spinning fan.
NOTE: A minor point of warning for little children on touch devices: don’t stick the finger between the blades of the fan!
So alternatively, put a grate on top for safety.
- The window that you are looking at right now: that monitor or tablet screen!
This article was also published on Codepen