Apple Design

The MIT Technology Review set out to find out how the Apple iPhone was designed. They met with a wall of silence, which is not really surprising since design is a really important part of Apple’s bottom line. Still they did manage to talk to people who had been involved in designing Apple products in the past and got some insight, and that in itself is interesting.

Three things emerge from the article, which seems to me a good recipe for good design.

First, make sure you have a strong and consistent design vocabulary:

Together, the two companies developed the “Snow White” design language that was meant to give Apple’s products a coherent visual vocabulary, the appearance of being related.

That vocabulary featured, among other things, lines two millimeters wide and deep, spaced 10 millimeters apart, to suggest precision. (Some of the grooves were functional, acting as vents for airflow.) Case corners were rounded, but to differing degrees: if the curve at the back of a computer had a three-millimeter radius, the one at the front had a two-millimeter radius, reducing the machine’s perceived size. In addition, the rounded corners and lines echoed distinctive features of the Mac user interface of the time: rounded screen corners and horizontal lines in the grab bars of windows.

Second, make sure that you drive manufacturing:

But Apple, Rolston says, “will change a whole factory’s process.” What’s more, he adds, the company keeps its eyes open for new manufacturing possibilities, no matter how obscure. One example is the “double-shot” method of combining layers of different or different-colored materials. Apple “saw that a manufacturer had a special process for this on a small scale,” Rolston says, and incorporated layered materials into its designs–for example, the clear plastic layered over colored materials in iPods and older iMacs. “[Apple] pushed them to do it on a much larger scale. Apple helped the manufacturers master the process and product.”

Third, make sure you have a tyrant who pushes their vision:

“Critical to Apple’s success in design is the way Jobs brought focus and discipline to the product teams,” Norman says. “[Jobs] had a single, cohesive image of the final product and would not allow any deviation, no matter how promising a new proposed feature appeared to be, no matter how much the team complained. Other companies are more democratic, listening to everyone’s opinions, and the result is bloat and a lack of cohesion.

There is also a very good book called “Appledesign: The Work of the Apple Industrial Design Group” which I own and which I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the design process at Apple as well as see a range of designs that never made it out of the lab.

I also just came across “The Apple Collection” which has a design section, with real and fake designs. A fun way to waste a few minutes.

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One Response to Apple Design

  1. ricky says:

    Well done interesting links of Apple collections. thanx for this links.R

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