Two former Apple designers have written a lengthy article in Co.Design in which they accuse Apple of abandoning the design principles that made it great.
Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini both worked at Apple in the design department, and the pair helped craft design guidelines that they felt were important for the company.
But now they feel that Apple’s products are no longer designed around the user. In their article, they say that “Apple has lost its way, driven by concern for style and appearance at the expense of understandability and usage.”
The central argument of the Co.Design article is that Apple’s software is now designed to look pretty, rather than to be intuitive and easy to use. The pair write that “Apple is reinforcing the old, discredited idea that the designer’s sole job is to make things beautiful, even at the expense of providing the right functions, aiding understandability, and ensuring ease of use.”
One example that the designers give in their article is the iPhone’s undo function. Most people don’t know that the iPhone even has an undo function, but it does. To undo an action on the iPhone, you need to shake it quite hard until a message appears asking if you want to undo something.
Here’s another criticism that the duo make:
Apple products deliberately hide complexity by obscuring or even removing important controls. As we often like to point out, the ultimate in simplicity is a one-button controller: very simple, but because it has only a single button, its power is very limited unless the system has modes.
It’s important to take what the pair say with a pinch of salt. They’re former Apple employees who may have an axe to grind over their departure. And they’re also authors and design consultants, so publicly criticising Apple is a good move for them.
It’s certainly true, however, that Apple has rewritten the rules when it comes to design. It launched the iPhone with a design that often mimicked real-world objects. The original Find My Friends app, for example, was developed to look like it was made with leather:
But Apple has set about updating its design to be more modern. Jony Ive was promoted in 2012 to a position that oversaw the design of Apple’s software, as well as its hardware. That meant that the tacky skeuomorphism was gone, and replaced with colourful designs.
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