Adobe, Apple, and Andrea Air
A three-part story on sustainability, design, and emotion. By Ivy ChuangBy: Ivy Chuang, Published: May 24, 2010
Let's clear the air, Adobe and Apple, with all the official smack talk hitting the fan these days, the two of you seem like Montagues and Capulets making much ado about nothing. Instead of calling each other out on shortcomings, isn't there a way to get your armies of software engineers to work together in the name of better design? I'd like to tell a sentimental story from a designer's point of view.
First of all, I am not a Mac user. "A designer that isn't a Mac addict?!" Many people seem to be surprised when I tell them I haven't owned a Mac since 1995.
I really liked my Powerbook a lot, but it was stolen, and the thing I remember feeling most remorseful about was that I could no longer play this really cool game that the Tetris makers had developed only for Mac. It featured blocks falling on a horizontal scroll and other elements like bombs and spiders or something (my memory kind of fails here- anybody remember the name of this game?) played to the similar maddening Tetris jingle. Alas, my addiction to the game was cured and I moved on.
My second stint as an owner of an Apple hardware product was a decade later in 2005, when my cousin gave me an iPod Nano as a birthday present. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the circular scroll and ease of use. Again, that was stolen, and I didn't feel the need to get a replacement. I currently own three products made by other companies that collaborated with Apple – the Burton Amp jacket, a Nike LunarGlide+ shoe designed to work with the Nike iPod system, and a Monster radio adaptor for my car. I can and continue to use the jacket and shoes without their Apple counterparts, but the radio cord adapter has been very lonely and useless.
I will survive - my Apple-related objects mostly still function independently. I stand contrast to all the Apple fanatics that cannot imagine life without their iPhone. To me, the allure of Apple is decidedly faint. Actually, let me take a step further and say that what probably prevents me from really taking an interest in Apple products, is the design snobbery that I sense from the company and its most voracious users. The recent shenanigans over the leaked iPhone reviewed by Gizmodo only reinforce my sentiments.
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The other factor is that I feel that Apple's commitment to sustainability is questionable. I attended a talk a few years ago by Jonathan Ive, the reclusive design director behind the i-line of products that have gained the company a design reputation in the last decade. An audience member asked what sustainable design factors the Apple design team employed, and Jonathan Ive's answer was something along the lines of, "We make our products to last a long time and that I feel is the most important factor." So THAT'S why there's new product launches every six months! I thought that was to give us a feeling of excitement, silly me – and the new products just replace the old ones?! Planned obsolescence as a business model should be taught in sustainable design courses for sure.
Ok, maybe he just failed to talk about the other factors in his on-the-spot answer, but I felt disappointed nonetheless. Don't get me wrong. I think Apple products are nicely designed for the most part and easy to use, for the most part. I would consider buying Apple products in the future. But it would be nice if the drama ended – and I just won't ever join the cult.
Read Part II here.