posted by Thom Holwerda on Wed 5th Aug 2009 19:37 UTC

Running out of fairy dust

Somewhere along the way, Apple decided to abandon its playful, crazy, and wacky hardware design in favour of a design direction that was sterile, white, and metallic. Apple hardware has become boring, generic, uninspiring. Sure, it's still beautiful - but it's beautiful in the same way my Ikea frying pan is beautiful; it's clean, highly functional, pretty, and indestructible - but it doesn't exactly make my heart fill itself with longing.

I once wrote a story on my blog, ages ago, about a very beautiful girl I ran into while on the train from Amsterdam back to my hometown. As I sat in the train, slowly minding my own business, we pulled into Zaandam station, and people started boarding the train. This beautiful girl walks in; pretty red coat, chique red long gloves, classy boots. Long dark blonde hair, and an overall posh walk.

She had a round face, and on that face, to the right of her nose, she had a port-wine stain. My first thought was that "they" could probably do something about that with today's advanced laser surgery or whatever, with which they could remove her vascular malformation.

But then I started thinking, and I asked myself a hypothetical question: if this girl did not have this vascular malformation, would I have remembered her? I would have noticed her for sure - she was pretty - but would I have actually remembered her? Would I have blogged about her? Would I be able to write about her again, today, 2.5 years later?

Then I realised something that became a universal truth for me: it takes imperfection to notice perfection. From then on, it became apparent to me that all the products that appeal to my sense of style and beauty, products that appeal to my emotions at some level or another, are all products that are imperfect. Products that are a little crazy, a little wacky, a little impractical.

It seemed like Apple's designers knew this truth as well. Apple computers (from my time at least) were all imperfect in one way or another, making them distinctive and fun. The iMac G3, the PowerMac G3 and G4, the clamshell iBook, the Cube, the iMac G4 - they were all in a way design over function, some more than others, of course. It was this that made them desirable for me.

The iMac G4 was the last of this type of Apple products, and with its inevitable demise, something died at Apple. Gone is the wackiness, the craziness, the fun. Apple's style has become an asset in and of itself - the Apple design has become the product. Instead of the design being some non-defined goal, it's now nothing more than a bullet point in an Apple executive PowerPoint presentation. Sure, we moved from white and grey to metallic grey, but that's only because they do unibody now.

Why can't I order iMacs in every colour of the rainbow? Why can't I order a limited edition MacBook in polka dot? Where's my blue dalmatian iPod? Why can't I find a flower-power iPhone? It feels as if after designing the iMac G4, the Apple design department ran right out of imagination and fairy dust, making way for an obsession with hospital wards and metallic powder.

If you look at Apple's present day line-up, it's one large depressing metallic greyathon, with all Macs sporting the exact same bland, boring, and uninspiring "design". This boringness and blandness carried over to Apple Stores and independent retailers, who all sport the same hospital-like design that makes me feel like I'm about to have something unpleasant shoved up every orifice.

Apple is no longer a fun, wacky, and crazy company. The playful arrogance of before has made way for a smug variant, a variant that makes me ashamed to own Apple products and to be part of their culture. Their design division is just churning out the same bland design in different form factors, with no sense of fun or playfulness. Not a single Apple product since the iMac G4 really put a smile on my face in the way that the coloured iMacs or the Cube did.

Apple has become a brand which you choose with your brain - not your heart. Add to that the company's despicable behaviour as of late, and you have a company which I just don't like anymore. 

Maybe Steve Wozniak should return. He could teach the current staff a thing or two about fun.

Table of contents
  1. Crazy, wacky, and fun
  2. Running out of fairy dust
e p (6)    55 Comment(s)

Technology White Papers

See More