Is Apple Beginning to Care Less About Design?

It’s easy to see that Apple is a company whose products sell themselves as much based on design as they do on functionality. Design is one of the most important traits that has Apple harnessed to distinguish themselves from the competition, a strategy that can be traced all the way back to the iMac, the colorful, fun design of which stood in stark contrast to the monotonous and dull beige and black boxes of its contemporary competitors. But today, it would seem that Apple relies on design less than ever, as many of its products have designs similar if not identical to those of their competitors. While this isn’t completely Apple’s fault, with many of their competitors intentionally making their products similar in design to Apple’s, they certainly don’t seem to be doing much about, instead choosing to stick to a well-established design language that gets more and more boring and less and less special with every new product release. This idea of Apple losing their design touch was exacerbated with the announcement of Jony Ive’s departure over the summer, which, in the eyes of many, was the final nail in the coffin for Apple’s winning streak of innovative and unique design. But while it would seem that, when taking these aforementioned facts into consideration, Apple’s design is on the decline, that isn’t the full story. Sure, Apple’s industrial design may be loosing its luster, but that doesn’t mean that its design overall is degrading, in fact, you could even argue that its getting better. You see, it’s not just the way Apple products look that influences people to purchase, but it’s also, to an equal or even greater extent, the way they work and feel. And while Apple’s design may becoming less unique, its user experience design is certainly the opposite. Apple’s design teams have made strides in creating amazing experiences for and between their products, such as those made with AirPods, which require the minimum amount of thought and effort to connect to your iPhone or iPad, or the new Magic Keyboard, which effortlessly transforms the iPad Pro into a desktop-grade computer. On the whole, Apple’s overall approach to design hasn’t gotten any worse, its just changed, adapted with new consumer patterns, Apple doesn’t need their products to look the best to sell them anymore, most of the people who care about that kind of thing already have iPhones, and Apple just needs to make it harder for them to leave by designing the best user experiences within their ecosystem, and for the people who don’t have iPhones, they see their design and integration between hardware and software as good enough to entice them to come over to their ecosystem. But while this approach works for now, it won’t always, and good enough wont always cut it, as more and more companies adopt the ecosystem approach pioneered by Apple, their integrated user experiences will get better, and, most dangerously for Apple, they will be able to offer them at a more competitive price. So while for now, Apple’s design and approach to it seems to be working out, that wont always be the case, and there will always be a need for thoughtful, innovative design over at 1 infinite loop.

(While most of Apple’s staff has migrated over to Apple Park, the hardware design team, for the most part, still resides at the old campus at 1 infinite loop, most likely to keep important, secretive product designs from being seen by the wrong eyes)

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