(Coffee-table) book review: ‘Designed by Apple in California’

“I grew up immersed in art books. My mother lectured on history of art and architecture and later taught art education,” Rene Ritchie writes for iMore. “Some of my earliest memories involve seeing enormous books filled with everything from Michelangelo to Miro, and countless trips to museum and their gift shops, and all the books that inevitably followed us home. Our shelves were filled with them and our coffee table often overflowed.”

“That’s the background and baggage I bring with me to Designed by Apple in California,” Ritchie writes. “A new, lavishly — ludicrously — produced photo book, it aims to celebrate and document the historic collaboration between the late Steve Jobs and Jony Ive, and the crushingly brilliant industrial design team they put together at Apple.”

“Eight years in the making, it includes 450 pictures spread across 300 pages, all shot by photographer Andrew Zuckerman. Available in both regular 10.2 x 12.8-inches or ‘plus’ sized 13 x 16.3-inches, it’s got a price tag as big as its bindings — $199 and $299 respectively,” Ritchie writes. “Designed by Apple in California is one of the most finely crafted books I’ve ever owned, filled with some of the most popular and pivotal products ever designed. It deserves to exist and I’m glad it does. The design world is better for it. Like the other tomes in my studio, I’ll likely only refer back to it a few times a year. But when I do it will be with a smile up to my eyes.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’ve called the book gorgeous and sumptuous, but even those words don’t do it justice. It’s something you have to hold, see, and leaf through in order to really appreciate its intrinsic, pristine quality which, as one might expect, it gushes with utter confidence.

‘Designed by Apple in California’ photo book chronicles 20 years of Apple design, dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs – November 15, 2016
Steve Jobs left design chief Jonathan Ive ‘more operational power’ than anyone else at Apple – October 21, 2011


  1. I would guess this book was inspired by Dieter Rams now classic book “As Little Design as Possible”, which traces his history with the German company Braun. It’s well known that both Ives and Jobs were inspired by Dieter Rams’ pioneering work in contemporary design. These coffee table books are a great inspiration and are great for better understanding what goes behind such iconic objects. It’s too bad this Apple book is not on display anywhere, the Apple Stores should have one on display.

    1. “These coffee table books are a great inspiration and are great for better understanding what goes behind such iconic objects”

      problem is as my post below agues you Do NOT get a ‘better understanding’ as there is practically NO TEXT. Many reviewers say they don’t even know what the photos show.
      (you can see the ENTIRE book in review flip page videos)

      MEMO Review:
      “Apple’s brick of a coffee table book consists of 450 photographs of past and present Apple products. Perfect for if you’re feeling nostalgic about that old iPhone you dropped down the loo.
      But, aside from a foreword by Jony Ive, the book contains no text. ”

      TechCrunch Review:

      “It’s a collection of 450 photos shot by photographer Andrew Zuckerman. There’s no background and products seem to float in the air.”

      (My note : “NO BACKGROUND” )

      “No discussion, explanation, description, or history. No trade-off analysis or cost comparison. No information on why the designers chose those materials, or deliberately echoed a previous product, or what particularly worked (or particularly didn’t) for any piece of hardware. This is even more frustrating when you consider products like the G4 Cube, which is presented without explanation or consideration. If you aren’t already familiar with the history of Apple, you’re stuck with a picture of a weird-looking machine in a fat plastic housing.”


      like I said below it’s a homage to ‘shape and cut’ for Ive’s fashion friends who are interested in ‘looks’ rather than tech. , it’s got little to do with Jobs “INTERSECTION of technology and liberal Arts “.

  2. I’ve seen the videos where the entire book was flipped through and other reviews.

    the problem with this book is that it almost entirely deals with the ‘look’ of the product. there is (as even the above review states) almost no text. This is practically no explanation of what the products are, or how they were used as ‘tech’ devices or how the design enhanced the use of the technology. Many reviewers said the photos were great but they had NO CLUE what they were.

    The scary thing is that this shows what Ive is really interested in and what his ‘fashion’ design buddies (this book was undoubtedly made to impress THEM. Marc Newson his best pal has his OWN book that looks like this: shape and size). Fashion dudes are not interested in ‘tech’ put in ‘shape’ and ‘cut’ which is this book.

    this book is NOT really a complete record or history of Apple products as ‘game changing technology’ but a rather a PICTURE record of the ‘SHAPE’ of Apple products.

    Marc Newson’s (Ive buddy, Apple part time employee) book:

    1. for people who don’t understand what I’m getting at.

      Ive is a brilliant designer but recently his obsession of ‘fashion’ shape has led to some bizarre (and to me unfortunate) decisions.

      For example : trying to make the Mac Mini a fashion item (small and jewel like) he removed the UPGRADEABLE ram to make it thinner (it’s a DESKTOP, there is no reason why it couldn’t be an inch or two larger and be upgradeable, the new Mimi made the popular ‘hobbyist’ mac into a neutered — fewer core as well — fashion statement) the Mac Pro cylinder design with NON UPGRADABLE GPUs (a midrange PC card today is three times the power of the highest end D700 cylinder costing $4600 base), totally round smooth iPad Pro pencil that looks great but rolls off tables and is hard to charge, and the Apple TV remote….

      the book illustrate his obsession of ‘shape’ vs ‘use’ (his obsession was great when kept in check by genius S. Jobs but now it’s worrisome).

      (Apple user for 20+ years, Mac Pros, 12.9 iPad Pro, Macbook Pro etc. Aapl investor)

      1. This and your earlier comment are right on. After watching this video I now believe that many of the problems Apple has faced in recent years is due to the dominating influence of Ive’s design dept. over all of Apple. I’m certain Cook has been relatively hands-off while Jobs would have told Ive that an idea was stupid and to go back to the drawing board. Actually, after watching this vid I have a newfound respect for the engineers who actually have to make these things work. I now have no doubt where Apple’s prima donna egomaniacs reside.

  3. Zero interest in the book. I much rather have Apple release new products and quality reduced bug software. But at this point in time, Apple hubris has set in and their product line sucks.

    1. How do I vote up Tim’s comment? I for one do not rate Jony Ive as a good designer. For Jony ‘Function follows Form’.

      Mac Pro 2012 vs Mac Pro 2013
      MacBook Air

      Jony also designed a camera:

      As a photographer let me say he made a pigs nickers of it. How do you chance a setting quickly? Where do you plug in a flash gun. The design was for charity and it did raise $1.8m, but I think even a stick of gum at that auction would have raised that amount of money.

      So as a designer – fail. I wont be buying the book. For now, I am struggling to keep my properly and usefully designed old macs going.

  4. The book is way overpriced for what it is.
    Sir Jony Ive maybe a good to great industrial design and product designer.
    But as a graphic/book and UI designer, he leaves a lot to be desired.
    I would have gladly paid the premium for this book if it contained both concept and/or close to final design sketches and some finished design files/art of the product to go with the final photos of the actual manufactured and sold Apple products.
    I have seen slow page turn videos of this book on YouTube (actually saved to my large screen iPad and this Apple product picture book is just underwhelming and boring with way too much white space.
    It’s the same problem/issues that I have with all of Apple’s product packaging.
    It is bland, boring, unexciting and underwhelming with way too much white space.
    Way too minimalist and simplistic in its approach.
    There was an green Apple Design coffee table design book created and published from an overseas third party (either in Sweden, Norway or Denmark) in 2012 that was very well designed and laid out similarly to the Apple Designed book but with far more information and background with sketches and some early prototyped, physically designed items/products that must have been supplied by Apple for that book.
    It is high quality, green colored, hard covered design book with a physical, “bite” die-cut pages and covers that was a homage to Apple and the Apple logo.
    This book is standard coffee table book size, a thick book with heavy weight matte printed pages!
    That book was, originally, priced at $80 U.S.D.
    Worth every penny!
    There is another similar book that came out in 2014 by a third party writer/designer/publisher that can be had for around $50 U.S.D. now!
    I haven’t got this book, but just seen this and this even looks like a better Apple design book than Apple’s own designed design tome!
    If it ever happens I won’t pay more than $100 U.S.D. for the Sir Ive designed Apple design book!

  5. I would love this book to add to my collection of vanity project publications. I’ve paid more for a couple of Taschen ‘design’ editions which are now rare and worth far more. I have a large format pop-up book of Escher lithographs and mezzotints which has quadrupled in value.
    To the naysayers…you have no clue and no…text is irrelevant in a book that is a feast for the eyes in the design world. Specs?…plainly ridiculous for the same reason.

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