No Shock Of The New

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First published in MacUser Dec 2014.

We are a generation of design lovers. We may not know it, but we are.

We take pleasure from the tilt and skew of a modern building as it comes into view around a corner. We love boldness, individuality, and playfulness.

Design speaks to us and even if we don’t share a designers taste, we get the message.

At one end of the scale, there is a pre-existing vocabulary of design styles and “cliches” which we can draw on when we want to deliver a quick and unequivocal message. Then at the other end there is design that challenges, that breaks the rules, makes us question what went before. Sometimes we get quite angry about it and sometimes it changes everything. Apple used to embrace the latter. Used to.

Somewhere in-between there is minimalism. We like minimalism because it represent health and purity and because it minimises the chances of adverse reactions. The problem with minimalism is that it’s a dead end. It’s for the frightened, the reserved. It’s for those that don’t want to offend or alienate. Where there is no design there can be no offence.

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And then there is Apple. Is it just me or has Apple turned into Benetton? Am I the only one who morned the demise of the coloured logo when it mutated into a minimalist blank shape? Where now the bold first iMacs, MacPros and iBooks. But that was just the beginning. Surely Apple’s recent TV spots would make even Steve Jobs turn in his grave. Bland doesn’t cover it.

And finally we come to our new system font friend, Helvetica. The font that defines the term “it’s the message not the messenger”. The ultimate anonymous font. Who among us either likes or dislikes it?

So someone should tell Jony Ives that good design is not merely the absence of bad design, and that the Apple design team is rushing head first into a dead end.

(Oh yeah, and coloured phone cases and a computer that looks like an office bin are not enough.)

© Matt Ottewill Dec 2014