As designers we strive for distinction - to articulate and execute in ways that others have not. Sometimes our work is near invisible - or unconscious. The stapler, the seat belt, the bottle opener - such items' personalities are synonymous with function. And when they function properly, they almost disappear (in a good way). Other designs - of cars and homes and furniture - are successful when they 1) function and 2) are recognizable as different from - and better than - the rest. Sure, the Aveo and Fiat 500 are both small, fuel efficient cars - similar in many ways - but born of different design ethos. One, of function only (Aveo) and the other, of function and aesthetic (Fiat).
Aesthetics is a nuanced and complex field of history, association and discipline, although you wouldn't know it by looking at popular fashion. Coach, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, among others, interpret asethic as brand. This is why popular handbags are 1) functional, and 2) covered in the letter C.
It is a sad triumph when literal wins out over all else. The culture of branding is one of extremes, of absolutes; it's either repeating C's or it's nothing. And the C's don't play well with others. C is, well, an island. It is a destination people flock to for validation, that is until C-covered bags exhaust their trend appeal. Then people look for the next design island, thinking not about design archipelagos, which are far more flexible, resilient and fun.
Let's revise: If we judge design based on function and aesthetics, we should also note reciprocity. An object's capacity to enhance, and be enhanced by, other different things. Resilient design is not bullying. It engages outsiders in patient hopeful pursuit of lasting alliance - strength through connection. Bread and butter, solids and prints, Furniturea and Chilewich; one is better with the other.