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The Secret of Apple Design
May 8, 2007 8:17 PM   Subscribe

"The difference between BJ and AJ, Before and After Jobs, is not the process," [Don Norman] continues. "It is the person. Never before did Apple have such focus and dedication. Apple used to wobble, moving this way and that. No more."
posted by Blazecock Pileon (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Wobbling, moving this way and that" sounds about right for a BJ situation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:26 PM on May 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


This article is good stuff, BP. Thanks for posting.
posted by cgc373 at 8:30 PM on May 8, 2007


Licks iMac and burns a candle for The Jobs.
posted by ColdChef at 8:31 PM on May 8, 2007


"Someone in a positive mood," Norman says, "faced with something that doesn't work, might say, 'Oh, I'll get around it.' But someone in a negative mood will get frustrated and have a 'Damn it' moment."

This is why my bad days get worse and worse, just on the basis of their already being bad days. It's a positive-feedback loop, where the day gets badder and badder until I fall asleep :(

Good days, on the other hand...
posted by lostburner at 9:31 PM on May 8, 2007


I like Apple, but they get way too much credit for industrial design. Am I the only one who thought the G4 iMac and the G3 iBook were among the stupider looking consumer products ever made? And in addition to looking like an oversized ladies' compact, the G3 iBook had a ridiculous amount of wasted volume -- which is almost criminal quality in a laptop. The G4 iMac had useless extra plastic margin around the display, and both the base casing material and the chrome-like neck were very cheesy looking. I like their current design sense, though.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:53 PM on May 8, 2007


Oh, and let's not forget the circular mouse that couldn't be oriented properly by feel.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:58 PM on May 8, 2007


God the slavish love heaped on this corporation and their consumer ge-gaws from supposedly sophisticated individuals consumers embarassing.
posted by delmoi at 10:06 PM on May 8, 2007


The G3 ibook - was it that thing that looked like a toilet-seat cover for people with haemeroids?

I dunno - perhaps popularity can spawn a quasi-Platonic concept. Certainly, the Platonic ideal woman in Plato's time looks different than the ideal in Renaissance and modern times. Apple's 'Snow White" look could be a double-edged sword; what if Apple did something to make the public think of Apple (and their design) as being 'aged' or 'dated?'

Design is like the whims of the Spring winds, vortices will spawn more hot hair.
posted by porpoise at 10:09 PM on May 8, 2007


I love my macbook in unholy ways.

I just thought I would share.
posted by empath at 10:20 PM on May 8, 2007


G.S.: the plastic margin around the G4 iMac was there to help the user reposition the display, aforementioned steel arm being the primary selling point of the contraption.

the slavish love heaped on this corporation and their consumer ge-gaws

From the Apple IIe I used in high school to the 21" iMac I'm typing this on, Apple has changed my life for the better than any other tech company, and quite possibly any other corporation, period. My IIcx + 13" RGB + HP LaserJet + System 7.0 made me a god among men in the early 90s, as far as productivity and professional output went.

Now, I bought a 1st gen iPod but haven't bothered to get a new one yet, so I could take or leave the whole iPod thing.

But it's not that Apple's so friggin' great, it's mainly that everyone & everything else has really sucked in important ways.

Tho truth be told I think Micorsoft has pretty much done caught up with OS X with this Vista thing.

I'm DLing the VS Orcas beta now, and am looking at SilverLight, and am still doing the XNA thing too. Apple's been treading water for the past year +, really, and from what I hear [cough] the 10.5 stuff really isn't that compelling.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 10:20 PM on May 8, 2007


The original G3 iBook was a kludge of sorts, as it used the casing from the eMate 300. At one point, it was going to be called WebMate, in a attempt to transition the "old" Apple of Don Amelio's days toward Jobs' tenure.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:32 PM on May 8, 2007


When Apple hits it, it hits it out of the park. But, geez, you'd have to be blind to not recognize when they've struck out. Some of their machines have defined fugly.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 PM on May 8, 2007


Whether or not you like or dislike Apple as a company, the article is a good read on how much design plays a part in Apple's product development.

No, not every product of theirs has been a hit, but they certainly have produced a large number of products that are memorable as much for their form as their function.

And I think Apple deserves no small amount of credit for helping to improve the overall aesthetic quality ('design') of computer hardware (and to a lesser degree computer electronics) regardless of the OS.
posted by Davenhill at 11:25 PM on May 8, 2007


The 20" intel iMac I'm writing this on is the most gorgeously functional Computing Machine I can imagine.

I'm a gushing Fanboy!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 11:47 PM on May 8, 2007


George_Spiggott writes "The G4 iMac had useless extra plastic margin around the display, and both the base casing material and the chrome-like neck were very cheesy looking."

I agree with this assessment. That was a pretty terrible-looking machine. Daring, though. That's something, I suppose.

I do think that the current iMac is very elegant.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:44 AM on May 9, 2007


The iLamp Mac was great, though. Being able to move the monitor around was wonderful. If my glasses were bugging my eyes, I'd take them off and just pull the monitor way forward on its neck. Other times I'd push it way back, or tilt it up so I could work standing up, etc.

My new Mac no longer has that functionality, and I miss it a lot. I can adjust the monitor a bit but not nearly as much as I would like.
posted by litlnemo at 2:21 AM on May 9, 2007


> The original G3 iBook was a kludge of sorts, as it used the casing from the eMate 300.

No it didn't.
posted by ardgedee at 4:04 AM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


When Apple hits it, it hits it out of the park. But, geez, you'd have to be blind to not recognize when they've struck out. Some of their machines have defined fugly.
posted by five fresh fish


If a company takes chances with design a few duds is a price you're going to pay. I'm not sure why this is a shocker.

The pc field has avoided the ugly by spitting out the mundane for years. I prefer the former.
posted by justgary at 8:05 AM on May 9, 2007


Apple design is great aesthetically but lacking in functionally - often because of the aesthetics. For instance, the mac Mini looks cools, but it's stupidly hard to open, and the power cable is held in by fairy dust and wishes.
posted by smackfu at 8:53 AM on May 9, 2007


Heywood Mogroot: Apple's been treading water for the past year +, really, and from what I hear [cough] the 10.5 stuff really isn't that compelling.

That is so not what I'm hearing, though I'm not "in the know" and haven't even tried the no-secret-features-included Leopard builds that the general public has heard about. Every developer I've heard talk about 10.5 has acted like it's pretty mind-blowing. e.g. Scott Stevenson here talking about the Leopard-only third-party app Delicious Library 2:

One, it's going to be an awesome app for me personally. Two, it's going make Windows users want Macs, and Tiger users want Leopard. Three, it's going to be a major eye-opener for Mac developers.

This last point is important. Whatever you thought was state-of-the-art in Tiger is going to be blown to bits with all of the new API available in Leopard. You'll have Delicious Monster to thank for hacking a path through the jungle for you. The bar is going to be raised even higher for a top-tier Mac app, though, so be ready.

posted by BaxterG4 at 9:15 AM on May 9, 2007


There were fancy new APIs in Tiger too, like Core Data, which users barely even noticed. Except that they needed to upgrade to use the software. Woo!
posted by smackfu at 9:41 AM on May 9, 2007


delmoi -

Granted, there are the fair share of Mac Zealots and shills out there (John Gruber, anyone?), but all in all the praise that regular consumers heap upon Apple is because when they nail it - they nail a product, they do so squarely on the head. Barring a few limitations and segments of the market they are ignoring, the current Mac product line is the best price/performance/options matrix they've ever offered.

Conversely, when Steve gets stubborn, we get the hockey-puck craptastic mouse, the bloated G3 iBook and the "flower power" iMac, to name a few.

But by and large, Apple's designs have been great in the last 8 years and their products have just...well, worked.

In a world where people have a hard time operating their microwaves and HDTVs, it's nice to have a company whose products are really intuitive and just work. That's where the slavish devotion and praise comes from.

Ask someone who has a car they really enjoy and they'll tell you that they love getting behind the wheel, even if it's to drive to a job they dislike. Apple's products, by and large, elicit the same response. They're tools, but people actually look forward to using them. That's one of the keys to Apple's success: no matter how much people hate computers, they usually enjoy sitting down to use their Mac.
posted by tgrundke at 9:45 AM on May 9, 2007


smackfu -

The comment about the power cord was pretty funny. However, I'll counter by saying that for the intended market, the Mac Mini will *never* be opened, for any reason at all. For us geeks, that's a shame, because we'd love to get in there and mod the crap out of it, of course.

For the target market, the sealed case is just fine - they'll plug it in, turn it on, use it, and never think twice about whether or not the case can easily be opened.
posted by tgrundke at 9:47 AM on May 9, 2007


All I know is that if Leopard doesn't kick major ass, I'll go out and buy a hat then eat it.

I shall be proved right when our mighty Lord Jobs appears at WWDC with the promised code in his hand.
posted by BaxterG4 at 10:30 AM on May 9, 2007


However, I'll counter by saying that for the intended market, the Mac Mini will *never* be opened, for any reason at all.

I actually agree... the only reason I needed to get in was to upgrade the RAM, and sometimes Apple includes access ports that allow you to only do that kind of maintenance, which I prefer.

What kills me is that the newer things with a similar form factor just have Torx screws on the bottom underneath the rubber pad. Like Apple TV and the Airport Extreme. I guess they decided it wasn't a great idea either.
posted by smackfu at 10:38 AM on May 9, 2007


Heck, my iBook G4 has Philips screws under its feet, and hex for the three exposed bolts.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:32 PM on May 9, 2007


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