15/09/2014

On @jiggityk Steve Jobs Watch essay



Last week I read Jong-Moon Kim's essay on what he felt could have been better about Tim Cook's product unveiling and how Steve Jobs would have done it better. On reading the essay I initially felt uneasy and morbid, but since then I've been unable to shake off the content.

Whilst I don't deny the essay is an interesting piece of writing and I don't want to take anything away from the creative execution of the concept, I think it's in real danger of overlooking the fact that it's pure fiction. The characters and events in the essay are real enough, but the contents of the essay is total pulp.

I agree that Apple's current product strategy is confusing and I also agree that the product launch left me with mixed feelings. However to suppose that anything is worse for Apple now than before, is a huge leap of imagination. Firstly many people I know at Apple are much more optimisitic under Tim Cook's leadership. Although Jobs will always be recognised as a icon in the tech world, he was not renowned for being a brilliant manager. What we see on the exterior of Apple may not represent the seismic changes that have happened inside. With a product cycle that spans over at least 5 years, the output from Apple today is most likely the matters put in motion whilst Jobs was still at the helm. One thing is for sure; Apple don't make any moves without a forward facing strategy behind it. What seems defensive now, is most likely playing out over a longer timeframe than we can see.

Secondly the crux of this essay assumes that everything Jobs did was positively received. This is simply not the case. During his tenure at Apple Jobs undoubtedly launched some huge products, but the reception was not always warm. Following the iPhone launch journalists and industry observers lined up to point out the limited colours, the restricted networks and high prices. Equally the iPad was derided for its "awkward" size and social value, with many pundits calling it 'a failed attempt to recapture former brand glory'. Assuming it would have been better if Jobs had launched the same products is just revisionist history at its most destructive.

Lastly the idea of this essay turns Steve Jobs in to a fictional character. An icon maybe. But not something for the public to re-animate and fill with their own words. Imagining how Steve Jobs would think, speak an act, then dressing that up as a real event has seriously dark undertones and shows a huge lack of respect to his family, friends and colleagues.

Overall I would say that this essay does far more harm than good and is not contributing our industry in a way I'm at all comfortable with.

12/09/2014

Guardian rolls digital design in to print


This article makes me feel happy and hopeful. The guardian is taking the design guides that it developed for its digital editions over in to the printed material.

Regardless of what you think of the design choices in here, the principle has to be admired.

Article via Design Week

10/09/2014

Two design observations on the Apple Watch

So the 'big reveal' is done. The speculation can die down for a few months and the crowds of early adopters have at least 5 months to whip themselves in to a rabid frenzy, before they can get their hands on Apple's Watch.

The event itself was a fairly standard Apple affair (excluding some chronic streaming glitches). On reviewing the new product alongside Apple's product line up I was left with two design questions buzzing around my head.

1. Will Apple ever regain a distinct or consistent UI design?

When Apple launched the original iMac, iBook, G3 and OSX they achieved something special. Their hardware and UI design was unlike anything else and consistent. The shiny, bubbly curves backed with a subtle pinstripe was everywhere. Over time their design was copied to hell. It also aged pretty badly. The hardware design went off in a new, cleaner direction. The UI design was draped in skeuomorphism.

With the recent unveiling of iOS8 and Yosemite OS it looked like Apple was making a move to bring things closer together. However the Watch showed another new branch of design thinking and the iPhone 6 has moved against the UI design. On a desktop you've got mixtures of flat UI and 3D elements. On a handheld device we've got squarcle app icons. On the Watch you've got circles and bouncy animations.

The hardware is equally disparate. The MacPro is dark, glassy and curvaceous. The iPad is slim, sleek with sharp edges. The new iPhone curved, matt and available in gold. Throughout the range there are drops of high colour, but in each instance it's a different colour range.

Whilst the new product launch was certainly exciting I felt Apple are still lacking a design language that you could say is "very Apple".

2. Do Apple have the design chops to take on watch designers?

Questioning Apple's hardware design capability seems foolish, but in previous products they've taken on categories known for poor design. Mobile phones, Computers and portable music players were all pretty ugly sights before Apple gave us their view. But watch designers have been making beautiful timepieces for many, many decades. The likes of Omega, Rolex TagHeuer, Cartier and Breitling have been refining their trade for a very long time. Is Apple's Watch good enough to displace a family heirloom? Can it hold its own against fashion brands like Armani or Gucci?

I have no doubt that initially there will be a huge rush for the Watch. For a period it will be seen in all the right places. Perhaps with the likes of Marc Newson and Paul Deneve onboard they can steadily build a presence in the fashion world. But the real test is going to play out over a much longer period.