Moritz Wolpert etched brass analog synth faceplate

This season brings attention not just to ornaments, but to the whole idea of ornamentation and why we like it (or don’t). Here’s a question I’d love to get some opinions on. You can share in the discussion below, or if you want to contribute to opinion statistics, here is a SurveyMonkey poll. I’ll summarize and share the results.

For the purposes of this survey, ornamentation is defined as any non-functional elements in a design that are included purely for appearance.

Q: How much (1-10 scale) do you like ornamentation in the things that you…

  1. …Make yourself?
  2. …Buy?

I’d say I’m at 8 and 3.

Paul Spinrad

Paul Spinrad

Paul Spinrad is a broad-spectrum enthusiast, writer, maker, and dad who lives in San Francisco. He hatches schemes at

  • Anonymous

    Form follows function 
    I’d say 3 and 3

    On the other hand if I can add functional and unique decoration, I’m in.

  • Arno Brosi

    I’m not a minimalist so : ornamentation ?Yes,please…..The picture is an excellent example…..

  • Frederico Lopo

    Adolf Loos (author of “Ornament and Crime” ) is probably rolling in his grave right now.
    He thought it a crime to waste effort in ornamentation. He also thought ornamentation made things look dated.
    I for one agree with you and I stand at about 8 and 2.
    I’d never buy something at a store that would be industrially produced yet almost baroque. Some things are also dangerously kitsch.

    As for things I would make myself? Definitely. Detail shows commitment.

    Also, the picture shows a modular synthesizer. A musical instrument is something very personal, especially one that you build yourself (or buy and assemble) like a modular system. Though I’m not that into Steampunk I do appreciate the detail.

    When I get to build mine, it’ll have a lot of custom knobs and some stone incrustations.

  • Chris

    I’m a proponent of “form follows function”.  I don’t necessarily include non-functional elements in things I make purely for appearance, but I do try to make the functional elements look as good as I can.  Is this ornamentation or just good design?

    • Anonymous

      *Exactly* how I feel…

  • Charles Johnson

    My wife has a sewing machine that is 110 years old.
    It was used to make all of her grandmother’s clothes, and all of her mother’s clothes.
    The fact that it is decorated with gold-leaf egyptian-style images, and that the cast-iron stand is braced braced with decorative curlicues, and that the wooden parts are all beautifully routed are just testaments to the attention to detail that went into building a machine that was so heavily used for more than a century – and still works.