What makes Apple design so good

The secret behind Apple Design. Principles finally revealed.

Rajshekhar Reddy
Oct 18 · 7 min read

It all started with the vision of Steve Jobs when he founded a company that will make computers. He was not about to settle for just any design; it had to be better than good. In fact, the design had to be great.

Apple counts design as the foundation principle. It is the starting point of their development process for any new product.

What makes Apple design so good
Photo by Krisztian Tabori on Unsplash

Since one of their first product releases, the Mac computer in 1984, they have been at the forefront of stylish personal computing that’s sleek, minimalistic, and easy to use.

Apple is the gold standard in Industrial Design. Period.

While Apple is known for its great technology, a big part of its reputation lies in its clean minimalist design. Take a look.

What makes Apple design so good
Photo by Gabriel Beaudry on Unsplash

Another key aspect of Apple’s design is simplicity. More than being flashy or eye-catching. Apple always designed its products to look clean, simple, and straightforward.

Everything from the shape of the phone, to the button design, to the color options to even the fonts used, uses clean and simple lines. Plus, the interface when you turn on the device echoes that minimalism and creates a strong cohesive experience for the user.

This simplicity is even echoed in the Apple store interior, which uses minimalist counters, shelves, and displays.

What makes Apple design so good
Photo by Amir Hosseini on Unsplash

As new products come out every year from Apple, they continue to wow critics, experts, and customers alike with their sleek minimalism, easy interface, and signature simplicity.

Functionality is always put first before appearance. Steve Jobs always used to emphasize this particular line stated below. Time and again.

Design is how it works, not how it looks.

Through the years, Apple has been able to significantly change the world’s relationship with technology through great design.

What makes Apple design so good
GIF Source: Medium

This is primarily the reason why Apple devices are so intuitive and easy to use. Throughout their lifespan, they have been able to set themselves apart due to their ability and willingness to make decisions on behalf of their users.

So, how does Apple come up with such great designs?

Before we get there and understand the underlying principles, I would like to introduce you to the famous industrial designer by the name of Dieter Rams.

A legend in his own right, he had a great impact on modern-day industrial design.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

You can also take a look at this short video about him on Vimeo. It’s inspiring.

Who is Dieter Rams?

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer who was responsible for the design of Braun’s consumer products for many years. Of his many iconic designs, the design of the T3 transistor stands out, in particular.

“To quantify his impact, you need to look at the millions of Apple products in our pockets” — Fast Company

Many say that the more than 50 plus old design inspired Sir Jonathan Ive, the ex-Chief of Design at Apple, in creating the iconic Apple iPod.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

Who is Jony Ive?

It would be a sin if I talk about Apple and not Jony Ive, the man behind the iconic designs of Apple.

Jony Ive began working with Apple in the earlier 1990s, where he redesigned the Mac for the modern era, creating the iconic Bondi blue iMac.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

He then went on to influence every Apple product and designed the iPod, the iPhone, the complete Mac lineup, the iPad, and the Apple Watch.

Even Jonathan Ive had acknowledged that the Apple design lab adheres to Rams design philosophy and his principles of good design.

So, let’s take a look at the 10 principles or commandments of Good design.

10 principles of Good Design by Dieter Rams

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

About 50 years ago, in Ram's quest to answer the question — “Is my design a good design?”, he developed the 10 principles of good design, also known as the 10 design commandments.

It’s amazing to see how valid these principles are today, even more than back then when Rams actually wrote them.

I will also introduce to you, some of the famous products designed by Dieter Rams so that you can appreciate his design sensibilities.

They truly were far ahead of the time.

1. Good design is innovative.

The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhaustive.

Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design should always be in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

2. Good design makes a product useful.

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

3. Good design is aesthetic.

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because the products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

4. Good design makes a product understandable.

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

5. Good design is unobtrusive.

Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

6. Good design is honest.

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful, or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

7. Good design is long-lasting.

It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years — even in today’s throwaway society.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

8. Good design is thorough down to the last detail.

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

9. Good design is environmental-friendly.

The design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

10. Good design is minimal.

Less, but better — because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

Final Thoughts

To summarize, here are the 10 design principles that we just discussed.

What makes Apple design so good
Image Source: Pinterest

So, how does Apple come up with such great designs?

It’s because Apple adheres to these design principles even to this day. This makes Apple products always look minimal, clean, and timeless.

Sample this.

A CNN story had the world’s best designers picking the 12 best designs in the last century (in celebration of World Industrial Design Day 2015) and two of them were by Apple.

The first was the Apple Mac (1984), which “seamlessly combined outstanding software and hardware into an experience”. The second was the first-ever iPod, which redefined and revolutionized what the world knew of an mp3 player.

Seems these inspirations and principles have clearly been communicated through Apple’s products, contributing to their successful legacy, over all these years.

So, here’s the question for today

According to you, which product of Apple do you think was way ahead of its time in terms of design?

Do let me know in the comments. If you want to refer to my previous blog, here is the link below.

Until next time, peace!

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