Alan Moore on how beautifully-designed objects — such as Apple products — go beyond the surface

The Do Book Company
Mar 6, 2018 · 3 min read
Icosahedron II, Richard Sweeney, 2006

Jony Ive is one of the world’s most renowned industrial designers; his work at Apple has redefined much of what we think about computers, and how we use them. To get there, Jony and his team have become masters of materials and engineering production, pushing past the conventional, constantly asking ‘Why not?’ and ‘How can we?’

This is where, for many of us, engineering or production might say, ‘No’, ‘It can’t be done’, ‘You shall not pass’ — that type of thing. Ive and his team ask: Why can’t we have glass, and glass this thin? Why not milled aluminium? Why can’t the back of an iPod or iPhone be hand-polished? Why not a unibody? Why is that tolerance acceptable? If we can’t make it — who can? Why can’t the insides be as beautiful as the outside?

In asking these types of questions and refusing the pat answers, Apple has become one of the richest companies in the world, delighting the owners of its products on a daily basis.

As the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, great beauty is foundational. The question of beauty takes us away from the surfaces to thinking about the core foundations of things. This insight is vital to understanding that good design can touch all our lives in the minutest detail — and good design is key to beauty and what we bring into the world.

Design is based upon resolving how someone is going to use something. Great design is describing the very best experience for them, then moving towards that ideal.

Sometimes that requires some spit, grunt and a refusal to accept ‘It can’t be done’ as the only answer. Finding the right materials and being able to apply them in service to a vision is fundamental to creating beautiful things.

Think about a sheet of paper — in the hands of some it can fail even to become a simple paper aeroplane that can fly across a room. In the hands of others, it is transformed into the most deliciously delicate shapes by a process called origami; we can only sit in wonder at its magical beauty.


Alan Moore has designed and created everything from books to businesses. He has a unique grasp on the forces that are reshaping our world and how to creatively respond to them. Working on six continents, Alan has shared his knowledge in the form of board and advisory positions at companies such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and The Coca Cola Company, workshops and speaking as well as teaching in institutions as wide-ranging as Reading University’s Typography Department Sloan School of Management and MIT. He is the author of four books on creativity, marketing and business transformation. He runs workshops for individual craftspeople, startups and large companies to help them create a beautiful business.


Adapted from Do Design: Why beauty is key to everything. by Alan Moore (alansmlxl). Copyright © 2016 by Alan Moore. Published by The Do Book Co.

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