LEON JACOBS

A note on Apple's design direction

Added on by Leon Jacobs.

Why did Scott Forstall have to be shown the door at 1 Infinity Loop? Because he was relying on Apple Maps. Or so the joke goes. 

Why and how he found the door is immaterial now. Much have been said about Apple's tendency to favour skeuomorphic design, but the fact is that the proponent of faux leather and torn pages are spending more time with the little Forstalls and the Prince of Industrial Design is holding the stylus over future Apple UX. 

The head of Sir Jony Ive

The head of Sir Jony Ive

Now that he is guiding both the hardware and software look and feel of Apple's products, what could, and should be going through his mind now?

The interface of the new podcasting app on iOS.

The interface of the new podcasting app on iOS.

  • Apple's UX has lost the element of surprise
    Since the Jobsian revolution at Apple, the shift to OSX and the advent of iOS, Apple's interfaces had an ability to surprise and delight you in the most pleasant ways. I will never remember the first time I discovered that the dock could magnify under a low-flying cursor. Or the way the screen rippled when you dropped a new widget on the dashboard. These days, there is nothing to delight and surprise the little kids in us. However, the same is not true for the hardware. The feel of the devices themselves have a way of bowling you over on first touch. It is what I'd like to think of as the intangible tangible. And it is the thing that makes reviewers write: Don't poo-poo this device until you've picked it up. So, step 1: Bring the magic back
  • There is a place for skeuomorphic thinking in UX design
    I guess people do like to see familiar conventions from the analogue world in their digital worlds to help them understand what things do. I guess this is what made Steve Jobs favour having skeuomorphs in Apple UX. Take the new podcaster. It gives you a sense of the type of content that you would consume on podcasts and the element of surprise is in there. As the recording progresses the tape on the left reel reduces and the tape on the right increases. Delightful. It's the same delight you feel when peeling the page up in iBooks to make one feel like you are living in the future. But a rubbish faux leather bounder on my contact book? Or a torn pages? No, thank you.
  • The hardware and software should be more integrated
    I was playing with a colleague's Samsung Galaxy Note a few days ago. It does something really simple and cool. When you take the stylus out of the bay, the device immediately switches to its note pad app. Because, surprise surprise, when people take the stylus out, chances are, they want to take a note. This is delightful and surprising and the kind of stuff Apple used to be known for. Take note, Sir Jony. 
  • More integrated design
    It is time for Apple's UI elements to follow the same design convention as the its famous hardware. The same clean lines, the same curves and the same use of translucency, reflections and glass surfaces that make so many of Apple's products end up in design exhibitions and art museums need to make themselves know in the UI. It feels too often that there are two different design philosophies at play right now. If the hardware looked like the software, we would see fake wood veneer instead of aluminium. And we can all imagine how crazy that would be.
Apple still has the momentum to capture what makes it a maker of great products. It just needs to dig inside itself and make it shine. On the outside, and the inside.