Article: The Secret of Apple Design

3 Jul 2007 - 7:54pm
1659 reads

Great article from Technology Review (MIT) on Apple Design

(free registration required).

Through much of 1982 and into early 1983, Jobs searched for a sympathetic
design partner; he finally found one in Hartmut Esslinger of Frog Design.
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

Declaring the importance of industrial design may have at first been a
purely emotional decision for Jobs, or he may have had some sense of
design's subconscious importance to customers. Either way, those interviewed
for this article say the emphasis on design was there at Apple's inception,
and it was there because of Jobs.

That emphasis did persist in Jobs's absence. But the company's design
process was different, explains Don Norman, who was vice president of
advanced technology at Apple from 1993 to 1998. Norman, who now teaches
product design at Northwestern University's Institute for Design Engineering
and Applications and serves as a principal at the Nielsen Norman Group, a
consultancy that focuses on "the human-centered product development
process," led Apple teams that developed new technologies and helped develop
the company's process for product design.

"There were three evaluations required at the inception of a product idea: a
marketing requirement ­document, an engineering requirement document, and a
user-­experience document," Norman recalls. Rolston elabo­rates: "Marketing
is what people want; engineering is what we can do; user experience is
'Here's how people like to do things.'"

Wow, I'd love to get a look at a sample of those documents!

Lots of nice little things in the article - plus you can download an MP3 of
the story.

Also, there is a link to an interesting video by Bruce Sterling speaking
about 'Hostile Objects':



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