If you've followed this weeks announcement of the new Apple PowerMac G5, you're probably aware of its strange new minimalist Aluminum design, a signiicant shift away from Apple's recent plastic cases.
I really like the new PowerMac G5 design, including some of its controversial details, like its front and rear grilles being equated to cheese graters. The funny thing is, while everyone else in the PC world are trying to outdo each other with freakier or uglier looking plastic cases, Ive and his Apple design team just push the envelope and progress their designs to the next level. Just look at the simplicity and subtlety of the new G5: folded aluminum, and see-through grilles.
In my opinion, Jonathan Ive and his Apple design team are the design trendsetters of the computer industry. They set the trends everyone else tries to mimic and copy. Take for example the original iMac. Shortly after its release, other PC and peripheral makers were furiously copying Ive's design style. Funny thing is, by the time the competition was into copying the iMac look, Ive had long since moved to the next design.
Another good example was the PowerBook Titanium's design which was knocked off years later by Gateway... but by then Apple's PowerBook line had already shifted to a completely new design using an aluminum case.
And finally, I should mention the iPod. Many have tried to copy its style and simplicity but just can't seem to get it down. And again, by the time competitors have made their best effort at a bad copy that's been watered down by committee, Apple and their lead designer, Jonathan Ive have already moved on to the next thing. Buh and bye!
Wired posted a very interesting article this week, called Design According to Ive, in which the writer asks Ive about his design philosophy and the new G5 design. I especially love this quote:
"We wanted to get rid of anything other than what was absolutely essential, but you don't see that effort," he said. "We kept going back to the beginning again and again. Do we need that part? Can we get it to perform the function of the other four parts? It became an exercise to reduce and reduce, but it makes it easier to build and easier for people to work with."
Wow. Reducing and simplifying? This is something really unusual. Often there is this tendency by companies, particularly in the computing world, to keep adding and adding features rather than trimming and reducing things to reach a good design. The idea of reducing to achieve a great design is Design School 101, but I don't often see designers using this approach in the real world. It's very refreshing to see this principle adopted by Ive and Apple.
UPDATE: Andy, my Mac-using Austrian house-guest has supplied me with a nice link to 30-some shots of the new PowerMac G5 surrounded by a throng of German Mac fanboys from the Apple Germany press event in Köln. Check out image 400 -- is that Heidi there in the background? :-)