One size fits all, fits nobody
It's just a transfer of power and responsibility from the manufacturer to the customer. People choose an iPhone because they don't want to make a decision.
Apple deity Sir Jony Ive claims that companies which offer mass customisation are "abdicating responsibility" for their design. While he hasn’t named names, Motorola appears to have taken umbrage and asked: “Are you looking at me?” In a long interview in The New Yorker, Ive says of an unnamed rival, “Their value proposition …
And since I'm bound to get accused of flamebait, I need to explain myself better.
If I hire a designer to design something for me, that thing is customised to my needs, my values and who I am. That's how the idea of design started. Any 'brilliant' house will have quirks in it because of the unique needs of the family for whom it was built. Now there's this idea that a designer can invent the perfect thing that's perfect for everyone. That idea is, frankly, rubbish. Since you can't afford to pay a decent designer to design the perfect phone for you, the best you can do is to do the personal aspects of the design yourself, by choosing the right one from a broad and diverse market.
@leon clarke - But generally, when you buy something, you're not hiring a designer to design something for you: you're buying into with the designer's vision, and the designer is (with caveats) providing you with something that embodies the essence of that vision to the best of their abilities.
To me, too many customisations implies indecisiveness and immaturity on the part of the designer, not talent. This is truly embodied in Samsung's 'we don't know what you want so we'll make everything' approach to Smart Watches and much else besides.
There are of course degrees: I'd like to be able to choose the colour of my car, but I'd think less not more of a car manufacturer if they offered wool or cement as an outer surface option. I'm very pleased that Apple is not Samsung.
"Your car analogy has to be the worst car analogy ever..."
Fair point - you're right, it was pretty crap.
I knew what I meant when I wrote it... it was supposed to be the perfect analogy for 'poorly thought out and excessive customisation devalues a product' - so for cars there are certain things it's good to have in the options list, but also there certain things that would be absurd and really devalue what the car's original designers were trying to achieve.
I can't think of a better way of expressing my point, so I'm going to stop typing right now.
Don't worry AC, I know what you mean.
Some users would exhibit intelligence, others would design that car Homer Simpson created for his brother.
Really, the average user isn't in a position to 'design their ideal X' because they haven't got the time and the space to carve up dozens of foam prototypes.
In any case, and assuming Ive was talking about the MotoX, Ive's dig was that giving a choice of colour and material alone didn't make the phone good value. [Reviews upon the release of the Moto X said it charged a high-end price for midrange internals. Actually its USP was a that it was always listening for a voice prompt, 'Touchless Control' made possible by dedicated processing unit. It was sold on the user experience and not just the bare specifications. Motorola went on to drop the price of the phone several times after its launch.]
The rest of the NYT article mentions Ive's Bentley Mulsanne - a model with over 100 exterior colours and four paint finishes to choose from, alongside 24 different coloured leather hides and 10 veneers. Additionally, the Bentley factory can match any colour you provide. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, a bespoke colour scheme can be created just for you.
You can adapt a car analogy. You take a perfectly good, economical, second hand small hatchback - and let a <25 year old male of a certain stripe loose with it:
The simple workmanlike design mutates into a monstrosity of glued on anti-aerodynamic prostheses, hideously tasteless (and poorly executed) custom paintwork, a music player with twice the wattage of the engine bhp, an exhaust that has more (effective) wattage than the music player, less ground clearance from the suspension than a Lamborghini ..... you get the idea.
I'm not siding with St. Ives here, but he does have a point if he was trying to suggest that sometimes unfettered user input/feedback may lead to design consequences that civilised societies may feel obliged to legislate against.
"there certain things that would be absurd and really devalue what the car's original designers were trying to achieve."
I don't understand this on two points: first, if an available customization is absurd, then people will just accept the default. Nothing has been lost in presenting the opportunity to customize it, so I don't see the problem.
Second, as a customer, I couldn't care less if something "devalues" what they were trying to achieve. I'm not using a product to validate their artistic sensibilities. All mass market products are design compromises geared to please a hypothetical target customer. Nobody is ever that hypothetical customer, so the design will always have things that are not optimal for any given person. Why is having the opportunity to customize the design to fit my personal sensibilities a bad thing?
@AC You're buying into the mass production mindset. People bought into the "designer's vision" because it was good enough and far cheaper than buying bespoke items whether it was clothes, carriages or homes. It wasn't buy in to the vision of the designer that sold so many Model T Fords it was that they were affordable and readily available. Besides, if so many people are buying into the Ive design then why do so many of them quickly wrap that design they bought into in a more personal case with baubles, sequins and/or "hello kitty" graphics?
In case you hadn't noticed, Apple has tried much the same with the iPhone. They just roll out the experiment over time. Let's see if they want different colors - 5C, how about a standard 16:9 aspect ratio on the screen? - 5 series, bigger? - 6, bigger still? - 6+. The difference is the approach, not the design. Apple makes changes gradually to see what folks want where Samsung threw it all out at once.
I like some of Ive's designs, but really:
"Abdicating your responsibilities as a designer"?
What a pompous twat.
Abdication of your responsibilities is important when you're talking about safety, or quality. I wouldn't want members of the public getting involved in the intricacies of detailing post-tensioning strand on the Milaeu Viaduct for example. Or any old DIY tinkerer playing with the control board at a motorway communication centre.
Letting people choose between pre-manufactured alternate components which are then factory installed by people in the same facility is a very different kettle of miscellaneous swimming things.
i can only presume Sir Jony is against the options list on cars being available as well, as that level of customisation goes against his intrinsic design beliefs.
I repeat: What a pompous twat.
Yes, I was thinking the same thing about cars. Should all cars be one colour and have exactly the same features. In fact should everyone be driving exactly the same "Apple Car" in exactly the same style and colour?
Would designers sit back and think "that looks perfect"?
If he thinks that design is about one single colour and style and then the work is done, it is perfect, then he is not actually a true designer at heart.
Since there are rumours Apple will get into the car business, we may be about to find out if they offer just one model with zero options other than the colour scheme of the display.
I suspect that it will sell very well. A lot of people will assume that Apple will have made all the "right" choices for them anyway, and if the driving position is a pain in the bum, they're sitting in it wrong.
This isn't just cynicism or Apple-bashing, just an observation about human psychology. After all, it has been claimed that the majority of new BMW owners buy them without ever having a test drive.
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This needs 2 thumbs up.
1 for the overall point.
1 for a kettle of miscellaneous swimming things
The Fiat 500 has won numerous design awards, but with over half a million possible configurations they must hand them all back for abdicating their responsibilities as the designer.
What a cock!
Ives abdicated when he decided to use White because Dieter Rams did. Half his stuff copies the 1950s -1960 Braun stuff anyway.
He's the opposite extreme in Choice. The company with one of the smallest ranges of choice ever, on new model releases usually.
I don't know why any one listens to this over rated product cosmetics stylist. There is no evidence he's an original designer, or has any flexibility. He's had one theme practically for years.
I like Apple kit - especially the iPhone. every time i've picked one up and played with it i've been impressed with the quality of materials; the feeling of heft; the elegant simplicity of the design.
I don't own one, and probably never will, because I don't get on with the Walled Garden, and i have gotten so used to Android as an OS on my phone that changing to anything else would be jarring. Especially with all the dicking about moving contacts across, and photos, and everything. iPhones (and iPads and the like) are great if you've already bought into the homogenous Apple infrastructure as many of my friends have.
I mention this, because I don't want to be misconstrued as a raving Fandroid, Apple-bashing at every given opportunity, whether warranted or not.
But I read this article - and the precursor article on the BBC - and the first thing I thought was "What a jumped up pompous twat* Jony Ive has come across as!"
[ * - stronger language may have been used.]
As a PRODUCT designer, he has responsibility for the look and feel of the device. Is it heavy, but not too heavy? Does the glass-and-aluminium give a good feel? Are the corners too rounded? Curved back or flat? That sort of thing. I suspect that there is a lot of back and forth between him and the engineers. I doubt he has much input into specs. Allegedly, he has some input into UI design and feel, but the actual workings are obviously up to some programmer in a dark room somewhere,
Stick to what you know.
I imagine this is probably more levelled at the Google Project Ara modular phone than MotoMaker - although knowing Apple and Ive it could be anything I suppose! If it *IS* aimed at Ara, then he's made himself look even more of a dick, as the entire point of Ara is to allow customisability of the *HARDWARE*, not necessarily the appearance. And if it was simply a dig at MotoMaker, then my original "pompous twat" comment holds.
I thought one of the points of modular phones was so you wouldn't be locked in and could upgrade the device to faster processors or different radios is you changed regions or carriers. Ive seems to be railing about just customizing but how much of that is because it makes whole phone upgrades superfluous. It's a lot less painful to buy a new radio module for ~$100 and not dropping yet another $600+ on a new phone when LTE next appears.
You should be worried Jony because if cheap modular components gets rolling I predict the current Fat Tuesday world you're living in will start to look a bit more lean.
Very, very few people would manage to create a phone that they end up liking better than one of the limited choices that Apple offers. To quote an absolutely fabulous actress: "We don't want choice, we just want nice things".
It's like going to an expensive restaurant and the waiter asks me what ingredients I want in my food. That's why I go to a restaurant, so that choice is made by someone who knows what they are doing food wise, and not by me.
Maybe; but to continue the analogies..
All Ives has done is 'design' the interior and crockery of your restaurant, the real work is done by skilled qualified experienced chefs slaving away in the heat of the kitchen. Also unless you eat in a seriously minimalist restaurant they usually offer you a choice of dishes, (Cue the SPAM song) rather than just reheating the same dish day after day no matter how tasty it is.
I'll agree with your actress friend that we "just want nice things" but again unless you live in a very homogenous social circle there is no absolute definition of 'nice'. Just think of the huge variety of musical genres, literature or leisure activities.
Being different is one thing that makes us all the same.
"That's why I go to a restaurant, so that choice is made by someone who knows what they are doing food wise, and not by me."
And yet if you ask them what the ingredients are, they'll tell you. And if you ask them to leave out some ingredients, include others, or change the amounts used, they'll do it. Restaurants are actually a great example of how valuable the ability to customize is.
"And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer.”
Or it could be as others above have said that it is giving the customer the choice.
No, knowing Apple, what's really rattling their cage is the potential loss of control.
What ever happened to the old saying "The customer is always right."
>What ever happened to the old saying "The customer is always right."
Apple generally has ridden on the idea that they know what the customer wants before the customer does. Generally, I'd agree with them there. The Lisa (lovely, if too expensive), Mackintosh, iMac, ipod, iphone, ipad all good examples of this. Apple stuff is lovely to touch, look at, hold - many people scoff at this, but it is an integral part of the experience of a consumer electronics item.
Where Apple fails is when the market moves on from this original bright idea to commoditisation. Its hard to keep coming up with good ideas, but inherent in finding a "new good idea" is that you know more than the customer. Being "totally customer driven" is normally code for "complete lack of imagination and effort."
Build-your-own-phone requires standardisation. Its a bit like shipping containers. They work well for economy and utility, but they are awful to look at and they will never be precisely what the customer needs unless they are shipping something which happens to be 8'x8'x40' - which is rare. Its an approximation to what the customer needs and always a compromise. You can compromise and rarely be "loved" or you can build something which will be loved, but only by a few.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. I suspect it will depend on whether phones make the jump to more general compute or compute-access devices. The more general the usage, the more useful a compromise is. Not even Apple's billions will allow them to be "everything to all men." An iphone is a few-uses device and can be tightly controlled, a macbook is more general and can be less tightly controlled. Can apple keep people's faith in their goods, the cloud or drive a home-server purchase, or will they lose out to local infrastructure like an xbox or playstation or the fabled Steam machine? Using the cloud for settings and photo's is one thing, but the question comes as to whether a local host can provide CPU and latency advantages that the cloud cannot. Will tablets become fast enough to run local apps and will the devices attach to larger screens, keyboards and mice to enable better working?
It will be interesting to see where the "next big thing" comes from. We've now got portable computing to the point where we can have it anywhere. The question will be not whether we can have it, but whether we want it. Voice controlled appliances might look great in Star Trek, but Samsung TV's look less shiny. Star Trek never addressed privacy issues and Picard never treated his entire crew as criminals to be controlled and manipulated and spied upon at every opportunity, for fun and profit, even if the tech implied that he could.
Ives could be correct. A designer who makes no decisions isn't a designer, so he has abdicated his responsibility. However, that is assuming that choices have to be made by the designer, that compromises have to be made. That was certainly the case, probably it still is. Massively hi-res screens may be something customers think they want, but which negatively impacts battery usage. Giving the customer choice is nice, but its a good idea to prune that choice to maintain a good experience. That is what your brand does. You can also guide various customers towards particular options so that they don't make mistakes. Customer's don't want to have to make all the decisions - that's too hard. They do want companies to come up with a few good options for them, but when the market matures, more options can be taken as a "given" and more control can be given to the customer.
"The Lisa (lovely, if too expensive), Mackintosh, iMac, ipod, iphone, ipad all good examples of this."
With the exception of the iPod, I disagree that any of those examples are good ones. I find them all to be substandard in terms of design (along with the iPhone). Why? Because none of them include design elements that actually make the devices more useful, easier, or better for me. And all of them include design elements that do the opposite. The ideal design is an intensely personal thing, so I understand perfectly when people love Apple's designs -- they just don't work for me.
And that's why customization is a good thing.
I think he abdicated his responsibilities as a UI designer with Yosamite. It looks like crap and expand window/full screen was better the way it was in Mavericks.
And on the software side it looks like they've allowed it to become a little more sluggish, relying on SSD to pick up the slack.
And don't get me started on their recent fascination with glue guns and unexpandable RAM. Even Jobs didn't put up with that nonsense.
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Both philosophies are valid.
Power users will want to choose particular features and configurations. The average user will just be happy with something nicely designed that does everything they need and probably a lot more.
But for Ive to suggest that offering consumers a flexible phone with lots of choice is abdicating responsibility is jumped up shite. You might as well argue that a clothes shop only needs to offer one style and colour of shirt or trousers, because in the designer's view, it's right and the consumer should not need the freedom to choose something else.
>>> You might as well argue that a clothes shop only needs to offer one style and colour of shirt or trousers, because in the designer's view, it's right and the consumer should not need the freedom to choose something else<<<
My hunch is that we'd see a fuckton of black turtlenecks
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You start your post saying hes right and attack the ability to have the colour you want on the back and even real leather if you want, also the trim on the phone and screen surround as you want and say its junk ? Its installed during manufacture and built into the phone not a 10p ebay clip on cover that many stick on their £500 mobile.
Then you say its like going back to a limited colour scheme etc, like the iPhone....
You sound confused,
A good designer will deliver something the majority of the target audience consider a good, stylish and solid product, perfectly serviceable and fit for purpose for most who buy it.
That doesn't mean the punter should not be able to tweak it to suit their own personal taste, nor does it give a designer a dictatorial right to criticise doing that or others who facilitate it.
I have heard similar from chefs who believe a meal should be exactly how it comes, no condiments or sauce can be added.
Bollocks to that; I'll do as I please.
"And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer.”"
WTF just how much design has gone into the iPhone since the first version ? Pretty much zero on the outside, it looks the same to me and with the exception of the 5c has a very limited number of options.
Oh and anyone who puts their phone in a case/cover etc must had it back immediately.
On top of that I still think WTF every time I see the pastel colours on iOS, can't wait to see how much they don't bother designing a working UI on the Watch and just use the BUTTON on the side.....
"just how much design has gone into the iPhone since the first version"
Actually, a lot more than you would realise. Some people at Apple have been paid an awful lot of money to make every iteration of the phone feel a certain way. To claim that they have simply made no design changes since the original iPhone is clearly false, and a pointless argument.
Point 1: I'd be more ready to accept Ive's comments on Motorola's support for user-customisations if I hadn't first seen the god-awful colours he chose for the iPhone 5c.
Point 2: I'd be more ready to accept Ive's comments on the responsibilities of designers if I hadn't first seen the god-awful protruding camera lens on the iPhone 6 which, BTW, necessitates user-customisation with phone-cases which are often of very dubious design taste.
So ... twat.
The first three sketch (usually very crudely) the final appearance of their 'creation', usually in some utopian setting which conveniently excludes the rest of the real world the item will exist in.
The Engineers in all their many flavours and skills then have to build the damn thing by next wednesday and for how much!!.
Methinks St.Ives has been supping too many Skinny DeCaffe Unicorn Milk Lattes and might actually believe that he is a genius.
Abdicating his responsibilty ? Oh please, it's just a Phone
Since it was mentioned. I actually had a discussion with people at uni on something very similar to project Ara, except instead of being a phone it was a handheld games console.
We were discussing things like the PSP and the nintendo DS and what we liked / disliked about them, it kinda turned into a build your own console thing and evolved from there
You want an OLED screen rather than LCD? You could buy it seperate, you want to use your console as a camera? Buy the 20mp camera add on, or the 4mp if you don't care. or none if you never intend to use it.
It actually made a lot of sense to us, the reason we didn't buy these consoles is because they were expensive (for students) and part of that cost was a load of stuff we'd never use. Meanwhile you could offer a base console package (cpu / graphics etc) and then sell upgrades for everything else under the sun. A new updated core comes out and you can transfer over the still working peripherals. Kinda wish we'd made a full project out of it, but alas programming course, not business.
Take a car. A bog standard everyday family car. Think of how many design decisions were made to make that car. Dimensions, body style, number of doors, headlight style and position, seat style, ICE, pedals, centre console, instrument cluster, heating controls. Thousands of parts all designed, to fit together to make a highly complicated mechanical object. And car manufacturers produce many many models and variants of those models. Each takes a real designer.
Mr Ive designed the iPhone. A small rectangular box. iPad, a slightly larger rectangular box. You get the idea.
He isn't a designer, he draws around stencils he picked up from WH Smith for a fiver.
"Apple is the most valuable company in the world so surely it follows that this guy is the best designer in the world, no? Market has spoken and all that?"
Then it must be the marketing people that should get the pat o the back, let's face it a good salesman can sell shit to a sewerage farm.
Ive may have some talent but it's limited compared to the likes of someone like Sir Terence Conran, now he is what I call a designer not to mention restauranteur, architect, entrepreneur etc.
What Jony Ive has designed is undoubtedly elegant, i.e. is has few elements and a great deal of simplicity in it's design lucky for him, then you get to the techy's work!
I'd have to agree. Manufacturers tend to do the finished design you end up with as they have to work out how to make the actual components required to make something work look as close to what the guy with the crayons sent them.
And anyway, a designer bemoaning users doing the design and removing him from the equation? Not really surprising his crayons got thrown out of the pram at that thought.
Personally, I'd have thought designing a phone where the antenna cut out if people held it properly was abdicating your responsibility as a designer. Designing things around how people use them is the first responsibility of the designer.
Or possibly designing a phone that bends when people put it in a pocket. That'd be an abdication of responsibility too, really; you were responsible for designing a practical item for people to move around with. Failing to anticipate pockets being used for this is a big problem.
Ive's no just a pretentious twat for suggesting that modular design is a failing, he's also an idiot for suggesting it. One of the major reasons Apple never managed to hold a decent share of the PC market was that people liked the option of upgrading the modular hardware platform bit-by-bit, as opposed to having to sell out for a whole new PC every few years. I'd love the option of doing the same thing with my phone, switching out the parts bit-by-bit rather than having to replace the handset wholesale.
You can choose whatever color you want.’ And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer.”
So why do so many people I see with iPhones choose to have clip on covers with all manner of colourful designs, or made to make your phone into some cute animal shape? Are they saying they aren't happy with Ive's design as it stands, and want to change it to their preference?
If Ive had his way, would you even be allowed to change your phone wallpaper and ringtones - surely that's part of the design too?
The virtues of design over substance.
Apple all over really.
A phone that doesn't make clear calls with a sealed battery that doesn't last.
$$$$ spent on style, then covered by consumers in $5 of plastic to protect it.
As the old joke [edited] goes, Ham & Eggs is a nice lunch.
The hen that laid the egg was involved, but the pig is committed.
The overpaid chef is only re-arranging it on the plate, and should shut up.
"Presently", the customization that Motorola offers for it's smartphones is limited to choices of back cover colour and material type - silver metal or colour plastic for bezel. Such sensible options in no way diminishes the quality of value for Motorola smartphones, as perople like my wife - who was a Corporate Interior Designer and exceled in Graphic Arts as a hobby, prefer these Artistic choices.
One commenter has link to Video where Steve Jobs dismissed the Android based 7" tablets, only to produce them later. What is ironic about the non-sensical view taken by Jon Ivy and by Jobs - re preferable tablet size is his reference to Microsoft Windows as an "Open Platform" because of multiple manufacturer support which is ridiculous, since Apple iOS and OS X as well as Windows are strictly "proprietary" and not open in any sense.
Unfortunately these technology icons continually insult people's intelligence by making stuoid statements in support of theie myopic and financially beneficial viewpoints.
Being in the market for a new blower (oo-er), I have been considering a Moto X.
When I looked at the customisation options on offer from Motorola, I really didn't see what the fuss was about. Small selection of muted, conservative colours in general 'warm' or 'cool' tones, plus the leather or wood effects that I'm not the remotest bit interested in.
The best fit for a person is what they fancy - if they want the same as everyone else a la iPhone, who cares? Let 'em. My preference is for a bit of individuality, but in this case I just don't see anything in the combos on offer from Motorola really ticking that box.
If your phone becomes faulty or you drop and smash your iPhone you can go to the Apple shop and get an exchange over the counter - free or for a standard charge. You get a brand new phone. They seem to keep all but the oldest models in stock for exchange purposes. This support model is only possible with a limited range of hardware options.
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