Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Apr 2012 02:56 UTC
In the News "Sir Jonathan Ive has been crowned British Visionary Innovator in a competition, run by the Intellectual Property Office. Ive won by a large margin with almost fifty per cent of the vote (46.6%). In second place was Sir Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the world wide web) with 18.8 per cent of the vote. James Goodfellow OBE (the inventor of PIN technology and the cash machine) was in third place with 15.2 per cent of the vote." Alan Turing was also nominated. If you ever needed an illustration of everything that's wrong with the technology industry today, it's this. Guy who designs the exterior of mass-market gadgets wins over guys who actually really contributed to technology. Telling.
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Missing the point
by Tony Swash on Fri 27th Apr 2012 08:30 UTC
Tony Swash
Member since:

I think your response is erroneous and incomplete. It is founded upon the mistaken idea that what counts is the technical intricacies of devices rather than what they do for people. The mistaken idea that design is about the wrappings of an object rather than by it's totality, that design is about how things look, and is thus trivial, rather than about how people interact with objects at a deep and complete level, which is profound. Both Mozart and lift muzak are both just sound frequencies arranged into patterns, yet one lifts the soul and one very much does not. And therein lies the magic.

Take the iPod. A device that included nothing technically new, no component (other than it's software perhaps) that was not available in other music players. A yet this device completely transformed the way countless millions of people interacted with their music, with their culture. That is something profound. It did this because of it's total design, including it's look, form factor, technical specs, overall mode of operation and it's software.But one cannot abstract any part of the iPod and say "that's the magic ingredient", it's the total design of the iPod that works the magic, that produces that most elusive and odd experience produced by a device, emotional (i.e. human) engagement.

One can be entranced by the sight and smell of a vase of flowers. But if one takes those flowers and grinds them up and separates out all their constituent chemical compounds you will never find the special ingredient that makes a vase of flowers entrancing. By grinding them up you may find that chemically flowers are quite similar to dung and draw the conclusion that interacting with flowers and with dung will produce a similar experience in people. But that would be foolish.

I think Jonathan Ives is one of the great designers because he has taken powerful technologies and enabled their potential to change human experience to be realised on a mass scale and thus enabled millions of people to transform not just the way they do things with this technology but how they feel about it. If you spend time with people with their new iMac or Macbook you notice something, they spend time touching their new objects with affection, they stroke them, they feel at ease. Previously for all the power that modern information technologies had unleashed mostly they produced in people a sort of twitchy anxiety, a feeling that they had to adapt to the machine. What Ives does is design objects that people feel are extensions of themselves. The designs of Ives liberates the technology for people.

Why did people vote for Ives? Because they had directly experienced his work and felt it's impact in their lives.

It worth remembering the ten principles of "good design" as laid down by Dieter Rams who work was the direct inspiration of Ives.

Good design:

Is innovative - The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Is aesthetic - The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
▪ Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Is unobtrusive - Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.
▪ Is honest - It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Is long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.

Is thorough down to the last detail - Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Is environmentally friendly - Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Is as little design as possible - Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Reply Score: -1

RE: Missing the point
by Thom_Holwerda on Fri 27th Apr 2012 08:47 in reply to "Missing the point"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:

As nice a designer as Ives is - his wholesale Braun ripoffs not withstanding - you can't honestly argue, with a straight face, that he deserves an award for innovation more than Berners-Lee or Turing.

Like I said - it's telling for the state of the industry and the world itself - like the war on science currently taking place in the US. A sad state, where design is more important than actual technology. Arguing that a designer of the exterior of mass-market gadgets deserves this award more than, say, the guy who invented the motherfcuking world wide web, quite possibly the greatest and most profound development in the history of mankind, is almost downright offensive.

In 200 years' time, nobody will give two shits about iPods and iPhones. However, we'll still feel the reverberations of Berners-Lee's work, and the history books of those days will tell of the effects of his work, its importance, and how it changed mankind forever.

Your stupid iPods, iPhones, Android phones, and more of that crap? They'll barely be a sidenote.

Edited 2012-04-27 08:49 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 9

RE[2]: Missing the point
by MOS6510 on Fri 27th Apr 2012 09:11 in reply to "RE: Missing the point"
MOS6510 Member since:

Well, Berners-Lee did "invent" the world wide web on a NeXT computer.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[2]: Missing the point
by Soulbender on Fri 27th Apr 2012 09:48 in reply to "RE: Missing the point"
Soulbender Member since:

You're confusing innovation with invention.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Missing the point
by Tony Swash on Fri 27th Apr 2012 13:46 in reply to "RE: Missing the point"
Tony Swash Member since:

The award was a result of people voting. Democracy can be irritating if one disagrees with how other people vote. People voted for Ives because his work resonates with them and that's because of their experience of his (and Apple's) work. bear in mind also that Ives has a portfolio of work over a period of time and one that is building a very large and deep cultural footprint.

a designer of the exterior of mass-market gadgets

You still thinking about design in a shallow way. It's a classic error and one that almost all of Apple's competitors make. There is a very good film about the importance of design called 'Objectified' that's worth a look.

his wholesale Braun ripoffs not withstanding.

Now, now - stop being bitchy. Ives 'ripped off' Dieter Rams in the same way Henri Matisse. 'ripped off' Gauguin ;)

In 200 years' time, nobody will give two shits about iPods and iPhones.

Like we have forgotten about the the Fender Stratocaster, the Helvetica type face, the Swiss Army Knife, Levi 501 Denim Jeans, Telephone Type 300 or the Mercedes-Benz 300SL perhaps??

Reply Parent Score: 0

RE[2]: Missing the point
by nefer on Sun 29th Apr 2012 11:21 in reply to "RE: Missing the point"
nefer Member since:

Design IS the product. Design is how it works, not how it looks.

Id much better have well designed, well thought out products, which are easy to use and can be picked up by millions, than techy gadgets which are based around great ideas, but poorly executed, in usability, in look and feel, in build quality. That just competely counteracts with the prime goals of said device in the first place, which is being a tool to enable humans to do something beyond their initial capabilities.

Consider computers. Before the iMac came along, your average desktop PC was a mumbo jumbo of cables. all components were modularized, which meant you had cables for video, printer, mouse, keyboard, speakers, scanner, network ... looking at the back of a PC, its a mumbo jumbo of cables, a dust collecter and a laymans nightmare to set it up. Most people needed an IT guy to get their computer working.

Before you go "but that already existed before" let me stop you right there : the iMac was the machine that brought this quality of computing to the proper attention of the masses, and changed the experience for millions in this respect in a positive way; maybe for you, as a technology enthousiast, this is trivial; for millions of computer users, however, its things like this which make a profound impact on overall user experience.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Missing the point
by Janvl on Fri 27th Apr 2012 09:02 in reply to "Missing the point"
Janvl Member since:

Indeed missing the point.

A series of copied ideas, the chinese worthy.

About the environment, read
Apple is one of the largest polluters.

Thom is right, a very very sad result that shows how little we care about real achievements.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Missing the point
by kwan_e on Fri 27th Apr 2012 09:50 in reply to "Missing the point"
kwan_e Member since:

Can you stop it with your HR/marketing/MBA logic? You types are the most useless people in tech and we'd be all better off without you guys trying to make yourself more important than you are.

Reply Parent Score: 5

RE: Missing the point
by M.Onty on Fri 27th Apr 2012 10:07 in reply to "Missing the point"
M.Onty Member since:

Ive isn't being compared to some obscure code monkeys or engineers whos' admittedly brilliant but inaccessible work was only made successful by the intervention of a worldly designer. He's being compared to the man who came up with the concept of universal computers, helped shorten WWII by a two years* and was midwife at the birth of both the British and American computer industries. He's also, as Thom points out above, being compared to the creator of the world wide web, which we appear to be essentially using to debate the relative importance of it vs the iPod.

Its only a public poll, meaning people make snap judgments based on who they've heard of, so we shouldn't get too worked up about it. Therefore I wouldn't say it was indicative of a general world malaise; but I would say its indicative of Britain's forty years of media and politics deliberately belittling its 'metal bashers'**, of which we have had some of the best.


* Axis forces knew that the Enigma was breakable, they just thought that the effort required to break it would be so gigantic that no-one would ever bother. Guess who did bother?

** Real headline from The Times, some decades ago, arguing that Britain should become an exclusively service based economy: "Metal Bashers Should Shut Up Shop".

Edited 2012-04-27 10:14 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE: Missing the point
by BallmerKnowsBest on Fri 27th Apr 2012 18:13 in reply to "Missing the point"
BallmerKnowsBest Member since:

I think your response is erroneous and incomplete. It is founded upon the mistaken idea that what counts is the technical intricacies of devices rather than what they do for people.

Congrats, only 2 sentences in and you've already managed to shoot your own argument in the foot. And I can demonstrate that with 2 simple questions.

1) What precisely is it that Ives-designed products "do for people" (your words) that is of any real significance?

2) And would any of those things be possible without the work done by Berners-Lee and Turing?

The answer to 2 is obviously "no" - meaning that Berners-Lee's and Turing's contributions are infinitely more important than Ives'. Unless, of course, your answer to question 1 is "give people warm, fuzzy feelings."

Reply Parent Score: 4