Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Point Person

Allow me to gratuitously self-quote:

Yet, one of the drawbacks of a golden era Steve Jobs keynote — from, say, 2005 through 2008 or so — is that it maximized Jobs’ presence at the expense of the thousands of people involved in creating a product or service. Sure, you would occasionally hear from Phil Schiller, Jony Ive, Scott Forstall, and others, but there was a gravity around Jobs that made it hard for others to get as much attention.

I thought this, from Riccardo Mori, was a good counterpoint:

This is possibly the first Apple event and product introduction where I truly felt the absence of Jonathan Ive. Sure, there’s a lot of him in the new iPhones, in the sense that they’re patchworks of a few of Ive’s ideas and designs. What I mean by feeling his absence is that, while I know there are hard-working teams of expert people who are capable of putting a new iPhone together, now I ask myself, Who designed this? Who’s the designer responsible for this concept and execution?

My criticism of having only a few executives presenting the work of thousands of people is, I think, still fair, but so is its flip side: a greater number of presenters makes it harder to get an impression of who is directing these products. That is particularly true of product design. I like the new iPhones — I will have to wait until one is in my hands, but I think they might edge out the iPhone 5 and 5S as my favourite iteration of the product’s industrial design. But I do not have any sense of a single person who guided the line’s development. I don’t know that it is necessary to know the people behind the products to get an impression of whether they have been skilfully designed — I could not name anyone who worked on my camera or my watches, any of which I consider excellent examples of design and quality — but it does feel a little less complete.

Update: The head of Apple’s industrial design team is Evans Hankey, which makes her the point person on this project. I stupidly forgot about this year-old change to the design teams. It is, however, odd to me that neither Hankey nor Alan Dye, who heads software design, have bios on Apple’s leadership page. For a company that prides itself on its design and quality, it seems like they should be more identifiable.