Category: Industrial design

Let there be an [aluminum] iPhone…


Apple iPhone version 1…

And Then Steve Said, ‘Let There Be an iPhone’

A very long, but rewarding article about what led up to the release of the iPhone.

Some great quotes in here and it shows that Apple really was betting the farm on this product.

I very much doubt now that Steve is gone, there is anyone with the drive and foresight to do this again.

But with most of the world’s money in their bank account, they shouldn’t need to do that.

However, out of the entire article, one thing stood out for me – and it’s nothing to do with the iPhone per se.

The second iPhone prototype in early 2006 … was made entirely of brushed aluminum. Jobs and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, were exceedingly proud of it. But because neither of them was an expert in the physics of radio waves, they didn’t realize they created a beautiful brick. Radio waves don’t travel through metal well. “I and Rubén Caballero” — Apple’s antenna expert — “had to go up to the boardroom and explain to Steve and Ive that you cannot put radio waves through metal,” says Phil Kearney, an engineer who left Apple in 2008. “And it was not an easy explanation. Most of the designers are artists. The last science class they took was in eighth grade. But they have a lot of power at Apple. So they ask, ‘Why can’t we just make a little seam for the radio waves to escape through?’ And you have to explain to them why you just can’t.”

This surprised me, (and it also must be a very stressful job being an engineer at Apple.)

A good designer should know all this.

A good designer should understand every aspect and limitations of what they are designing, before they put pen to paper.

A good designer is not concerned with just how it looks, BUT HOW IT WORKS.

I’m semi-quoting Mr Ive here.

It seems that the designers at Apple, who in most cases trump all other influences, aren’t as good as they say they are.

They are just concerned with how things look, not how they actually work.

Jony Ive let the designers under his control waste time in designing something that could not exist in the real world.

That’s not an industrial designer, that’s an arrogant artist with no concern of how the products he designs are used.

Does that ring any bells?