Technology has personality in Apple

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ much-discussed impact in the fields of leadership, technology and design are inspiring — though, to be fair, not without criticism.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to the world is his brilliant expression of the idea that product design does not simply serve to create a carrying case for technology.

Instead, shapes, colors and buttons forge a relationship between people and computers, giving technology a personality. The MacBook, iPod and the iPhone captivate us with their attractive, lightweight forms and advanced, convenient features.

In a New York Times article that was published a few days after Jobs’ passing, James B. Stewart asked, “Of all Jobs’ accomplishments, this, to me, remains both the simplest and the most astonishing. How did he take a commodity … and turn it into one of the most iconic and desirable objects on the planet?”

Stewart’s question can be answered partially by observation. It really is astonishing how much people love their Macs. There are countless Tumblr photos of charming bedrooms that have white laptops as the centerpiece of the desk or sitting on the bedspread. It — like the color of the walls, Christmas lights and cluttered collections of vintage accessories — says something about the owner.

Stewart himself wrote, “When I came across the MacBook Air, I thought it the single most elegant technology product I’d ever encountered, and not just because it looked good. Its light weight and paper-thin design made it easy to carry while offering all the functions and keyboard of a full-size PC.

“Even the packaging was so beautiful that I couldn’t bring myself to discard it. Now I refer to it as my third arm and can’t imagine life without it.”

The design of one of Apple’s most successful products lies in its sophisticated minimalism and portability.

Not only can MacBook users take the white laptop with them wherever they go, they can get a lot of work done on it thanks to its powerful memory, whether it is editing photos or movies, writing a term paper or attending a meeting through Face Time.

Hundreds of other apps allow users to customize their Apple experience, making MacBooks an extension of the user.

The MacBook gave the world the most ideal means of capturing ideas since the pen and paper: Just as words or drawing lines easily flow from our minds through our fingertips to the smooth paper, our ideas seamlessly make their way to the glass computer screen through the backlit keyboard and mousepad.

Jobs gave his design manifesto in a Fortune magazine interview, which Stewart quoted in his article.

He said, “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer … But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service … This is what customers pay us for — to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers.

“We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.”

Apple products accomplished their wild popularity by being user-oriented to the point of becoming a part of their lives.

The future of technology will further the designed element of technolgical products, delivering conscious presentation and layout in addition to excellent specs.

 

Reach the columnist at jlgunthe@asu.edu

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