Towards Minimalism (or how ‘Design is How it Looks’ at Apple these days)


I just wrote an article (rant? :joy:) about Apple’s ever consistent progress towards minimalism if anyone cares. :slight_smile:


I believe that whilst Jony Ive may be a great designer, Steve was keeping his design work in check, and now perhaps Tim doesn’t have that power, or doesn’t understand the dynamic Steve and Jony relied on to make the products that they did.

Jobs died… a year later iMacs lost their DVD… Coincidence? :}


While I mourn the loss of the optical drive, Steve started it with the 2011 Mac mini iirc.


Some recent products have been so Ived, form has dominated function. Jobs was always explicit about targeting the intersection of tech and liberal arts and I believe kept Ive on a leash.
Cook is Mr Supply Chain and let Ive go feral for too long. There are hopeful signs of correction starting to come through.


:slight_smile: Yeah, was part tongue in cheek… I’m sure the 2012 design had been locked down before Job’s passing. That’s still just a major gripe for me, and why I’m not buying any modern Macs for a while yet. (Apart from the price… and dislike for the flat OS)

I do hope that the form over function stops. I’ve loved the Apple/Mac ethos since my first encounter decades ago, so I’d had to see it go too far that they ruin everything for the sake of pretty.


The 2017 iMac is a step in the right direction. Can’t say the same about the MacBook lineup though.


Wait, what? You’re waiting for optical drives to make a comeback?


I think its the overall form over function thing not optical drives in particular.


Yes oldmacs, it was the new iMacs in particular I was thinking of.


Understand everyone’s comments, but I’m perfectly happy with the current designs. There’s a good balance of form and function which is so often lacking in the PC world - I’m thinking of all those hideous “MacBook Air Killers” that were the thing a couple of years ago. Making it thinish and aluminiumish does not good design make. That said I totally understand that the form/function ratio is a personal thing, and for my usage I don’t need multiple ports and drives etc.

Interesting in your article about the AirPods… for me the form/function balance IS out of whack on those. I find them to be hopeless for running - I hadn’t realised how often I change the volume up and down with varying traffic noise, or skip tracks - something entirely effortless and now second nature with the control on the wired EarPods but a complete pain if not impossible with the AirPods if Siri is in the wrong mood to understand you.


Touchbar - dumbest design ever, takes attention away from the screen and adds very little to usability other than an initial “this is cool”, which is followed a few days later with “why?!?!!?!?!!”


What most struck a chord to me was this quote:

In 2017, it feels to me like we are now well into a “design is how it looks” era, led by Jony Ive. Where new products are designed to look good in a design studio (or on an AppleStore table), and compromises to functionality are far more accepted than they ever used to be.

Which is exactly how I perceive current generation Apple products. Some of the current designs are textbook examples of a product conceived by committee.

Marketing wants the design to look amazing, unique, sleek and modern on retail store tables, with an interesting but otherwise unnecessary new feature intended to wow the masses into purchasing them.

Finance wants them built on a shoestring budget, where the cost of components and manufacturing is kept to an absolute minimum to increase margins.

Design wants the computer to fit their vision, with compact dimensions in numerous finishes to convey an emotion, the perception of a premium product and an air of sophistication and exclusivity, despite being an otherwise mass produced product.

The second to last division consulted is Engineering, who when presented with the specifications set by the preceding departments, are then tasked with fitting the masses of components, supporting hardware and cooling into a compact package. With an expectation set of better performance than previous models, the components are pushed harder, but other components such as battery size and cooling system surface area are reduced. They can’t even increase the airflow volume at risk of fan noise becoming an issue. As long as the computer survives the warranty period and then some, it’s not perfect, but it is sufficient.

The last group to be consulted? The customers. In the Australian market, most consumers can’t even afford them! Apple computer prices are on the increase again after coming down for some time, and if trends continue, and we’re almost back into that $4000-5000 territory that wasn’t uncommon in the PowerBook G4 Titanium days, not including the now required accessories, cables and adapters needed to gain the same level of mobile connectivity as that PowerBook.

(Sidenote, the Apple 87W USB-C Power Adapter is the same price as the older 85W MagSafe 2 Power Adapter, but doesn’t even include the damn USB-C cable in the box - that’s an extra $29!)

Perhaps most telling though is whenever I need to write an insurance report for a client these days, and the current model equivalent computer is a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, I’m often asked if they can instead trade down to a 2015 model or even sometimes a MacBook Air. Consumers used to scramble for the absolute newest computer they could get, almost as though Christmas had come early when the insurance company was paying up, but not anymore. That’s saying something.


lol No - I’m waiting for say a 12 month period when I realise I’ve not used my Mac’s optical drive. Currently, I still use it, so I would rather not move to a machine that doesn’t have one.

I don’t know how Mr (sorry - or Mrs) Average USA feels about the matter - I suspect perhaps optical really is in a more advanced state of decay over there than it is here… but it’s only been in the past few months that I’ve moved to limitless broadband. Only now can I truly consider the idea of simply downloading whatever content I may wish to peruse. That freedom does to some degree help nail the DVD drive shut… and I suspect American internet has been there for a lot longer than Australian services.


I understand where you are coming from. I feel the same at times. However, as I think John Siracusa said on an ATP podcast a few months back, it is too easy to slip on the rose coloured glasses. Apple had its products of questionable design in the Jobs era too. We tend to remember the successes ( iPod/iPhone/iPad) rather than the duds

Something to ponder next time you look at the Apple TV 4 remote.


It’d be very interesting to see what my insurance company would offer if my mid 2012" 15" MacBook Pro (i7 2.3Ghz, 16 GB RAM, 480GB SSD) was damaged beyond repair. It is suppose to be a “replace like with like” policy so given that this was a top of the line machine when it was purchased I expect something near the top of the current line up - actually I’d much rather have a desktop these days as I the screen on a laptop is too small for my preference (and desktops are generally cheaper too).


We would match the specifications to the equivalent current model. For example, if your computer had a 500GB drive, we would configure a machine with a 500GB SSD. A 15" screen is exchanged with another 15" screen. If the 2012 machine had 8GB of memory, but the smallest current offering in the 15" form factor is 16GB, then 16GB it is.

The owner of course has a say in the matter, and while it makes sense to option the newest equivalent machine to the configuration you already have, some owners will choose to trade off on some features - like a dedicated GPU and Touch Bar - in order to get a machine like the 2015 model with the same connectivity.