Apple’s design commitment makes wildly imaginative products few companies rival

“The first Macintosh. The titanium PowerBook. The iMac. The iPod. It’s easy to think of Apple’s major design triumphs. They’ve shifted our conceptions of how a computer should look and feel, and changed the way we interact with technology — and listen to music and connect with friends. Some innovations are small — like the trash icon or the placement of a trackpad. Apple makes wildly imaginative products with a consistency few companies rival,” Burt Helm reports for BusinessWeek.

“Of course, look beyond stunning breakthroughs, and you’ll see some equally dramatic flops: The Lisa, Apple’s first crack at an easy, user-friendly personal computer, tanked with its $10,000 price tag. Or the Newton, the first handheld, which debuted in 1993 and fell out of production in 1999,” Helm reports.

MacDailyNews Take: The Newton MessagePad 2100 is still the best PDA ever made.

Helm continues, “‘Idealism is a major part of Apple,’ says Andy Hertzfeld, an original Macintosh team member. ‘The company operates for artistic values rather than for commercial purposes.’ Apple’s products always start first as design vision — and then tackle its feasibility. As a result, sometimes the challenges can seem impossible. After the design is worked out, says Jory Bell, a designer who worked on several iterations of the PowerBook notebook computer series, ‘then you sign it off with Steve [Jobs]. Only after that is there negotiation over whether the laws of physics will actually allow [that vision] to happen.'”

Full article here.

BusinessWeek’s slideshow of several former Apple designers and engineers and their work here.

Related articles:
Steve Jobs and Apple Computer designer Jonathan Ive take home coveted D&AD design awards – May 26, 2005
Jonathan Ive: at Apple ‘we make money to support our desire to make nice things’ – October 29, 2004
Fast Company: Apple Computer’s Jonathan Ive ‘Master of Design’ – June 04, 2004
iMac, iPod designer Jonathan Ive named ‘most influential person on British culture’ – February 12, 2004
Did Jonathan Ive ‘almost single-handedly’ save Apple? – September 19, 2003
What happens when Steve Jobs dies? – August 20, 2003


  1. I assume that the remarks about “design vision” coming first refer to a functional design (read: goals, like “my powerbook idea will allow more comfortable typing by setting the keyboard back,”) and not a visual aesthetic design (“the new powerbook should have the keyboard set back, so the front will be more bleakly industrial-looking.”)

    Otherwise, I have to give (even more) mad props to the engineers for having to squeeze their good stuff into purely artistic edicts like, “it has to be semispherical.” *That* is no way to run a business.

  2. I hate all computers. But since I have to have one to but food on the table, I prefer Macs as the lesser of the other evils. I also hate iPODS (i.e., music)but own one. I hate sex too. I now limit each to three times a week.

  3. *grrr*

    when will they finally stop saying LISA was a flop. Oh, its businessweek, sure they only look at the numbers sold.

    Look deeper, moron. Theres much more in this box than someone like you can understand.

    Oh Burts Hell forgot that worst computer ever, this.. Next thing steve tried, which was even more expensive and even less usable. Sure.

    Conceptually, the Newton 2100 in fact is one of the best, still. if not the best.

  4. Jimbo –

    I was pointing out that the remarks quoted were probably misleading, suggesting that visual aesthetic came before function. That’s either *not* the case (most likely), of if it is, then Apple is crippling its potential severely.

    I take it you disagree? Do you think the road to the most reliable and efficient hardware runs through the visual design decision first? You think someone draws & inks a picture, gets it approved, and THEN the work starts on what it’s supposed to do?

  5. The personal/home computer…digital landscape, call it what you will.
    Everything worth porting to the digital world will eventually show up.
    Apple knows this by virtue of the thier method of making consumer
    designs that are worth paying for, which keeps them in business.

    This is not something new, but Apple got it and used it for the
    personal/home computer. Do these Apple’s want to network? They
    are, like the birds and the bees. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”confused” style=”border:0;” />

    CT =======]————- Beautiful losers

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