At Apple's keynote presentation at the WWDC yesterday, scorn for Scott Forstall – their recently-fired VP of iOS software – ran rampant. His preference for skeuomorphic design (calendars that look like leather and so-on) was mocked repeatedly by Craig Federighi: “Look! Even without all that stitching, everything just stays in place.” But the real shocker was the completely redesigned iOS 7, created under the supervision of Jonathan Ive, who prior handled all of Apple's hardware design and none of its software. Previously Ive and Forstall were much at odds, reportedly refusing to even meet with each other—and it should be noted that Ives' famous idol, the legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams, famously rejected artificial wooden furnishings with his breakout design, the record player that was nicknamed "Snow White's Coffin" for its transparent lid. Forstall's ousting placed Ive in charge of interface as well as industrial design, and it was expected that the shift would lead to a change in iOS design philosophy. But the change was perhaps more radical than expected—a complete overhaul that looks simple to the point of cartoonishness, with abstracted icons and stark layouts. Some critics are already complaining that iOS 7 goes too far in the other direction; others note the deep rigor of its new rules-based design. You can hear Ive talk about his design here [warning: obnoxious Apple promo video]. And Apple threw its support behind Ive with an unexpectedly lovely short video about the design process [warning: possibly also obnoxious]: "We start to confuse convenience for joy, abundance with choice. There are a thousand no's for every yes."
The idea that the form of a product should correspond to its essence does not simply mean that products should be designed with their intended use in mind. That a knife needs to be sharp so as to cut things is a non-controversial point accepted by most designers. The notion of essence as invoked by Jobs and Ive is more interesting and significant—more intellectually ambitious—because it is linked to the ideal of purity. No matter how trivial the object, there is nothing trivial about the pursuit of perfection. On closer analysis, the testimonies of both Jobs and Ive suggest that they did see essences existing independently of the designer—a position that is hard for a modern secular mind to accept, because it is, if not religious, then, as I say, startlingly Platonic.— Form and Fortune is an essay about Steve Jobs and Apple's design philosophy by Evgeny Morozov.
Huh. Not the only time it's been noted, but still,Dieter Rams did make it look good first. An interesting guy who's basic design precepts Jonathan Ive has been very successful at emulating. For which I am only happy. [more inside]