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Apple design. Once so subtle, so understated, so naturally beautiful. Loved all around the world by creative people who appreciate good design.
But while their products become sleeker, for software design the vision seems to be more and more towards old and tired looking metaphors. Paper-looking notepads, iBooks simulating a real book case, and now a leather-bound friend finder.
Is it the switch from Jobs to Cook? That would be to easy of a conclusion. This shift has been happening for years now and Apple is not the type to have no thought behind this.
That thought may be that now Apple is so mainstream, their users aren’t just design loving techies anymore. Today’s Apple user may indeed like the iPhone as a gadget, but may be way behind in technical understanding of things. For them, software designed after their old offline substitutes will lower the barrier of adoption since it feels like something they know.
I use the word ‘they’ because I’m not part of that group. I’m a Mac fan for over 5 years now, bought the first iPhone the week it came out (no I did not sleep in front of the Apple store) and generally do so because the design and usability really appeals to me.
While it may be good for the mainstream, this metaphorically designed software is driving me away from loving their products. Apple’s Game Center embodies this new design direction in the worst way possible. A wood & green casino-style table top with all my game scores. Just like in the offline world indeed, but where is the sleek design that made the device around it the most successful product launch ever?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Apple should be bothered by the fast I dislike their latest designs. But interesting it gets when some new player enters the market. A young Steve somewhere in a garage envisioning how software could be much better. How Apple got it wrong with the cloud, with social, with music services. How this all could be much simpler and cleaner. Will early adopters then stay true to Apple? Does it still have the flair to keep even the most design-savvy techies loyal?
To me, as one of them, I feel that Apple is becoming the IKEA of tech - design for the masses. It’s great for a while but tiredness is sneaking in. I’m waiting to fall in love again with something awesome. I’m waiting for this young Steve to get out of his garage and wow me again.