What do you think is behind Apples design stagnation?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Big-TDI-Guy, Jul 29, 2012.

  1. Big-TDI-Guy macrumors 68030


    Jan 11, 2007
    I've seen a few threads with this subject - however I'm curious as to the principal forces behind it.

    Looking at any line offered by Apple - major designs have drifted very little for the past few product generations. iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, iPhone, OSX, iOS - all seem to be making incremental changes - contrasted against the Apple of the late 90s / early 2000s.

    Remember when the candy colored iMacs sparked an entire wave spanning everything from imitation computers - to vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances? They shook the ground, and everyone rushed to imitate. There are dozens of amazing designs you all already know of - and I'm not looking to compare these individually - because opinions differ, but one cannot deny how far beyond these designs went. Especially compared to today.

    I don't believe Apple has achieved the pinnacle in anything - there are many more possibilities with what exists now. I understand the reasoning behind sticking to what works - but without anything risked - only a short plateau will remain, followed by a rapid decline.

    Competition has heated up as well - competitors that are willing to take the same risks Apple once did - I'm now seeing products by other vendors approaching a similar user experience. It's not long before they succeed in surpassing the "Apple threshold" at the current rate.

    So what's happening? Why the same iOS experience? OSX has not made many significant jumps for a few years now.

    No company wants to be complacent - because they all realize that's their demise.

    Has Apple litigated themselves into a limited design evolution? It seems every button, trim, form factor, and surface finish is being contested by every player in the game today. Are they afraid to be in someone else's legal crosshairs?

    Is the financial risk too great for their bottom line these days? If so - why aren't we seeing their "low volume" products taking larger leaps - surely that could be a safe way ahead. It seems their low volume products are even slower to change.

    It seems I'm reading just as much commentary about supply chains, locking down part futures, and securing manufacturing contracts as we used to with new designs and product concepts.

    The future of Apple as a service / entertainment company also seems possible.

    Or have they actually gotten complacent?
  2. MorphingDragon macrumors 603


    Mar 27, 2009
    The World Inbetween
    They will do what maximizes their income. Innovation is not a prerequisite for being a teech company.
  3. neiltc13 macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2006
    Apple's best and most innovative designs all failed when you compare them to how much money iPhone and iPad bring in.

    iMac G3
    iMac G4
    PowerMac G4 Cube

    Why would they return to taking these risks when they have safe bets bringing in so much money now?

    Not only that, but there is only so much innovation that can be done.
  4. 0000757 macrumors 68040

    Dec 16, 2011

    No decline here yet.
  5. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    What design stagnation? Many people, myself included think they have the best designs in the industry.
  6. ender land macrumors 6502a

    Oct 26, 2010
    Unrealistic expectations on the part of over eager consumers, resulting in innovation being seen as stagnation.
  7. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    This original post seems like someone who hasn't taken a step back to realize how much Apple's design has changed the entire design industry. Notice how the trend of buying your gadgets in any color to personalize them has given way to the industrial simple elegance in everything from refrigerators to light fixtures?

    Glass and aluminum are everywhere now.
  8. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Apple's most impactful designs (the multicoloured iMacs, the cube) came about because Apple was on the verge of extinction and they needed something for the marketing department to work with. Now that that crisis is well past, Apple is able to put out the designs that are actually at the heart of what they are about. Simple and elegant. The 'less is more' mantra. If you are noticing the design, then they did it wrong. What this means is that you can appreciate the simplicity of what you are looking at... but then focus on the task at hand and the design gets out of your way.

    I think Apple is doing fine at this, imho.
  9. G51989 macrumors 68030


    Feb 25, 2012
    NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
    Simple, because Apple had to take risks to survive, Apple never was able to do very well without taking huge risks.

    Now they are the mainstream company, have a cult like fan base, they have ZERO reason to give a **** as long as people keep buying their products.


    Hate to tell you, Glass and Aluminum appliances have existed as long as stainless steel has,

    ever see a Kitchen from the 1950s? Pretty much stainless steel everything.

    Light fixtures? Really?

    All of these things were available in stainless steel, with very simple designs before steve jobs father was alive.

    Good god.

    They've been building kitchens like that, as an example for 100+ years.

    Apple didn't swing all this stuff towards being simple and made of metal.

    Good god.
  10. wvuwhat macrumors 65816


    Sep 26, 2007
  11. NT1440, Jul 29, 2012
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2012

    NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    Please lets not let this get heated. I should have explained that design paradigms are cyclical like everything else. Apple brought about a resurgence in industrial design when the world was in a state of flashy is better design.

    I never claimed apple was the first, though I can definitely see how you would take that from my post as I definitely didn't elaborate enough,sorry about that.

    Anyone that is interested in design should watch Objectified, you can even see Jonny Ive explain how aspects of 50's industrial design directly influence many of his current (at the time, meaning ipod classic) designs.
  12. Grey Beard macrumors 65816

    Grey Beard

    Sep 10, 2005
    The Antipodes.
    'Praps they are letting it ferment a while to brew the best cider in the world.

  13. G51989 macrumors 68030


    Feb 25, 2012
    NYC NY/Pittsburgh PA
    Well, I still think flashy is better :p

    And You were talking like you couldnt buy a simple applicance or computer, or anything of that nature before Apple came along!
  14. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    Sorry, I was talking about design cues, alot of what apple is doing know was big in the 50's and early 60's (though the colors aren't nearly as drab) :p

    I clearly did not elaborate enough, though few realize what amazing breakthroughs in refrigeration Apple did in the 40's, years before it became a company lol
  15. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007
    Stopped reading after "Apple's design stagnation"... that's strictly a matter of opinion. I personally like their current look, and I understand the principles and subtly it carries.
  16. NT1440 macrumors G4


    May 18, 2008
    I'm always amazed at the sheer magnitude of though put into designs that are deceivingly simple externally. What they've done with ionic air cooling (take a look at the patent and tell me its not strikingly similar to the cooling in the rMBP) is mindblowingly detailed thinking in my book.
  17. Melrose Suspended


    Dec 12, 2007

    I'm amazed at the way they agonize over the things we as users take for granted... It's all very logical, if you understand design, but the care they take with their exterior design is quite cool.

    The G4 Cube and then that first iMac on a stick are very nice. I've love to own one of each someday.
  18. Carl Sagan macrumors 6502a

    Carl Sagan

    May 31, 2011
    The Universe
    When you're looking for a radically new direction you go through something of a revolution once you find your path it's evolution. The same is true of companies that reinvent themselves as Apple have, their design hasn't stagnated it's just going in an assured direction...
  19. Mousse macrumors 68000


    Apr 7, 2008
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    Ah yes. Apple's current obsession with thin. Keep the same look, only thinner. I was impressed with Apple's earlier designs, but this unnatural obsession with thinness has put the kibosh on looking in a different direction. It's as if they come up with a design and Ive says, "I like it. Now make it thinner.":rolleyes:
  20. Big-TDI-Guy thread starter macrumors 68030


    Jan 11, 2007
    Honestly, I'm not asking for change for the sake of change, I've been using Apple since IIe so I have an idea of their progression.

    I just don't see the level of innovation that existed before. I recall times that Apple blew everyone away when anyone least expected it. Now? It's become easy to anticipate what's next - things are evolving. But not much beyond it.

    Yes, a bunch of their most ground breaking products were financial flops contrasted with the success of their mainstream income - but people were impacted none the less. These still paved the way for the future, you can see design elements carried through the following generations.

    The goal of any business is to make money - but with Apple that line was blurred, massive risks were taken by Steve because of an ideal he tried to pursue. Look at NeXT, but look what it yielded after the fact.

    I see Apple today as the most financially stable it has ever been, and that may be the change of tide.

    Many, many, many people will embrace this - consumers included. But the creators, innovators and thinkers look to be pushed aside in favor of the predictable consumers.

    Almost as if Apple has gone from a manufacturing economy, to a service economy. The service economy did not bring humans to the moon, obsessive ideals and dreams did.
  21. Ariii macrumors 6502a


    Jan 26, 2012
    I agree. Since Apple has switched to Intel, any advances in the internals already applies to PC's, so it seems logical that advances in design would only speed up, along with the OS. After Leopard, the only major advances I've seen are that it merges with iOS, not that many advances that are already major in itself. The MacBook Air was definitely revolutionary, but since then, there's not that many other major advances in case design, especially in the iMacs/Mac Pros. I still like how the G3 iMacs and clamshell iBooks look better than most things Apple has out there today.
  22. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    You're looking too much in to their computers. Desktops and laptops HAVE reached their peak. I don't see any other computer manufacturers doing anything crazy. There's not much else to refine in these things... aside from faster processors, more memory, and more pixels, there can only be so much new innovation in a laptop.

    Look at the iPad. It's been less than 3 years since it first came out. Yes, it was somewhat of an evolution from the iPod and iPhone, but it's a huge thing. Don't underestimate what the iPad is doing for technology. THIS is where the real revolution and innovation is. Innovation and revolution isn't making the same product (a desktop or a laptop) in a fancy new colored case, it's making a brand new product that can completely change the industry and how people use technology. The iPad and the iPhone ARE this, and they ARE the future of Apple and computing technology in general.

    The personal computer of the past 20 years as you knew it is dying. It's not that Apple isn't innovative anymore, it's that these types of products already reached their peak. Look no further than all the companies chasing Apple to come up with their own tablets. There's your proof that Apple is still innovating and revolutionizing their industry.
  23. nuckinfutz macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    A decade ago the Internet wasn't as large and the leaks weren't as prevalent.

    If you shut off your computer and let the announcements come you'd be amazed. Today you aren't amazed and you're asking Apple to innovate but they cannot innovate if you've been privy to each little detail. You've eliminated the "impact" of any announcement before of the foresight you have now.

    The Macbook Air I type this on is INCREDIBLE. It's light, sturdy and feels faster than any laptop i've ever been on.

    My iPhone 4 feels like it's a solid piece of metal covered in glass.

    Apple sets the trends and it's up to us to perceive them how we wish but I'm not seeing any less innovation now than I did a decade ago.

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