Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

What Happened to Apple’s Whimsy?

Peter Cohen, reflecting on the first iMac on its twentieth birthday:

I hope that Apple finds an opportunity to go full circle with the Mac yet again. It probably won’t be the iMac, but I hope that some future Apple device, whether it’s a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop machine, or some hitherto unimagined gadget, regains that sense of whimsy and wonder we’ve seen before. Something to help us emotionally connect with it and that essential Apple user experience in a way that’s different, and less invisible, than how we do today.

I’ve been thinking about the original iMac and iBook a lot recently, on occasion of the iMac’s birthday and the cancellation of the AirPort, the first generation of which was introduced alongside the iBook. The vibrant colours and translucent plastics — and the handles, of course — made these computers feel approachable and human.

I’m not sure that I would like to see too more of that goofiness, though. It’s not that I hate fun; rather, I think that Apple’s increasingly austere take on industrial design has made them better at shipping products that feel almost invisible. I appreciate that. It reduces the hardware to a tool, but not an appliance, yet I think Apple’s products feel even more approachable than they used to because so much of what they make is entirely straightforward. They don’t need to mask the complexity of the software with a layer of gumdrop plastic; in many ways, the software has become simple enough that the hardware can reflect that.

Then again, now that the iPhone has a gorgeous glass back, why can’t it be sold in a range of highly-saturated colours?