I’ve never bought an Apple device for their design. Over the years, the reason to buy were many, but more often than not, a functional need was addressed. It could have been the stability of the operating system, longer lasting devices or excellent service, devices that allowed for backup and more. In those decisions, I perhaps looked for peace of mind and continuity.
Yes, design matters and perhaps the lack of it would make for irrational choices in a modern digital environment. As a customer, I am more concerned about how it works than how it looks. There may be some for whom the look matters more, and that is fair enough. Mr Ive’s influence in Apple product design is well documented and that design philosophy has often been adapted by other companies. In a career spanning almost two decades, there would be successes and some weak points in the product too, and that is if you look at it at an individual’s level.
The complete product experience is a combination of many functions of a company working together. It’s the product, service, knowledgeable people that offer a customer the assurance to use or experiment with Apple products. So design and the related work have to be seen as an integrated effort of a company. Not just industrial design.
When it comes to design, one can read more articles about how Apple has lost its design mojo, and I often wonder about it too. Look at the recent announcement by Google about tablets. Think about the message to their customers who bought their stunning tablet just a few months ago. On the other hand, customers of the slightly older iPads will get some enhancements to their experience. We have got to look at design leadership in the context of perseverance and constant improvements. Perhaps it becomes a systemic process and less individualistic.
Apple is traversing a journey from being a design powerhouse to being privacy by design powerhouse. Their recent announcements are more about how they are enabling some tools and processes towards privacy enhancements for their customers.
So their current offer is
- Content and services like Music, News, iCloud, Games, Tv and others
- Tools for the developer community that ensure the viability of significant reach across Apple’s multiple platforms
- Consumer productivity devices like the iPad Pros’ and the Professional productivity devices leading with the stunning Mac Pro and others. I guess Apple has a future roadmap of devices that has Mr. Ive’s imprint for the foreseeable future.
- In-device experiences in cars and smart homes. These are devices that are likely made by others but have software and technology experiences that have Apple solutions.
- However, by far their most significant offer is privacy protections like virtual email ids, technology protections in their browsers and more
So in a sense, Apple experiences and their design will need to encompass not just industrial design leadership but also aspects such as assistants, machine learning, automation and development of new software-driven experiences. All while keeping the trust of their customers in terms of privacy promises.
Apple, or any other company, has to also contend with a new generation of devices. A generation of devices that do not just focus on minimalism but the more significant issue of the environment. Yes, there are recycling programmes but are they available everywhere. Apple has one device that is made with 100% recycled aluminium, but other devices would also need to be looked at more holistically. Think about the shift to low voltage devices. Perhaps they are already there in the immediate pipeline. So design and the business model needs to look at repairability on one side and recyclability and reuse on the other.
What does extending the life of products mean to the broader business model. Does it start with metallurgy, design or the business model of a company? I feel future customers of any company and society, in general, will study the design decisions in the context of the environmental stewardship of a company.
So the next experiences of Apple or any other company are going to have to factor in their environmental and social impact. It requires a team that works very differently with whole new skill sets as well. It does start with operations for now.
There is a lot to get done before we start thinking of iconic designs. The language of technology and design stewardship needs an entirely different vocabulary and actions.