Saturday, April 28, 2007

On Why Apple is Bad For Design

How Apple affects the design world ...

"The Design Observer recently featured a sloppily-written article on why Apple is bad for design. Seeing the post’s title, I eagerly expected a thoughtful critique of that most vaunted of companies — nobody’s perfect, and there must be reasonable things to comment on. Instead, the DO article is an incoherent rambling on issues of form, style, and rounded corners, and ends up as much ado about nothing.

I thought, well, I could do better than that. So here I go.

The main reason why Apple is bad for design is that they’re a highly idiosyncratic organization. As such, it’s nearly impossible to copy them, because no other organization has the elements that allow Apple to product great design. This means that when others do try to copy them, they focus solely on the superficial aspects of the design.

I would argue that the main reason Apple is bad for design is because they’re so secretive about their work. So, while they benefit design because they demonstrate the value and power of design in the marketplace, they prove a detriment to design because they don’t share how they achieve such brilliance.

And because they don’t share, they make it look too easy. If you dig deeper, and listen to the stories of what it took to get iPod (all the iterations on form, as mentioned in Steven Levy’s The Perfect Thing), or iPhone (two and a half years to get it to market), you know that it’s not easy. But that hard work is lost on many, and the seeming simplicity of the end product suggests simplicity in the process. Which leads to people coming to Adaptive Path, and saying, “We want to be the iPod of [product category],” without any understanding of the deep commitment that it takes to get there.

If Apple were to share, we’d understand the tradeoffs that go into the decisions they make; the countless attempts before settling on a solution; the obsessive attention to detail, often at the expense of the bottom line; and doubtless other things that I know nothing about. And other organizations would then appreciate what it really takes in order to be a design-led organization, and, hey, that would be great for design."    (Continued via peterme)    [Usability Resources]

iPods - Usability, User Interface Design

iPods

1 Comments:

Blogger munckee said...

So secrecy = bad for design? I'll agree that sharing might further propagate the design ideals that are an Apple standard, but with some consideration toward business practice, I don't think that we can entirely fault them for their secrecy. How many other companies continually design products that are so widely respected? The iPod is part of the permanent collection at MOMA. It's part of the Design Triennial exhibit. I think that their countless attempts are a testament to their dedication. Not many other companies would put 2 years into a product and refuse to release it until it was done right.

That said, I agree with your assessment of the other article. I was disappointed when I read it as well.

9:42 AM  

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