I’ve read two complaints recently about the aesthetics of Apple products, which is, I don’t know: surprising? Given that they get so much crazy praise most of the time.
The first one, I very much agree with: it’s about Apple’s “aesthetic dichotomy,” or the way in which the promise of Apple’s hardware design – sleek, functional, minimalist – is not upheld by its software, which is strangely old fashioned, or, as the writer puts it, “sentimental.” That is to say, you pick up a rounded rectangular slab of glass, chrome and black plastic that has a single button on the front, but what it displays onscreen when you call up your books is a representation of a wooden bookshelf. The “Game Center” uses an image of green baize bordered by wood. Why have such commitment to the integration of form and function in the device when you’re going to be faking the appearance of traditional everyday items in its software? Apple seems to be slightly underestimating its users here.
The second is a much longer piece by Maria Bustillos at The Awl, which, gosh, it’s very long and I didn’t read all of it but it seemed to say some interesting and relevant things like:
For someone who thought that taste was connected to originality, one can’t help noting that Jobs’s taste was derivative in the extreme; he attempted a mid-century minimalism very much in the mold of Dieter Rams, for many decades the chief designer at Braun. (Rams’ influence came to Apple largely through its own chief designer, Jonathan Ive, who has long acknowledged the debt.)
Apple’s products, aren’t so much from the future as from a sort of retro-future – like Steve Jobs wanted us to live in the world that he imagined we might live in back when he was growing up, rather than the one we came to be living in when Apple reached the height of its powers. I don’t find myself agreeing with all that much of the article but it seems pretty relevant that for all his focus on “taste,” the style that Jobs went for was not that original.