The Wallpaper* Feature on the Apple Design Team and a Missed Opportunity

Wallpaper* published a rare feature on the inside of the Apple Design Team. This group of people is arguably the best design team in the world. I have so much respect for their work. You should read every word of the article and take some time with those pictures. That being said …

  • I can’t help but think that every picture looks arranged and posed. This is not the design team ’at work’. They are instead posing for a magazine shoot. Creating art is messy. Those pictures and the table layouts in those pictures are art, but they are not, in my experience, what it looks like while you are doing art.
  • It appears they shot most of the pictures on the upper floors. I’m guessing the dirty work of design happens on the lower floors.
  • I wish that in addition to rooms dedicated to typography and color science, they also showed an even bigger room dedicated to user interface design. In my opinion, Apple’s hardware is untouchable at this moment, but some of the software mechanics and user interfaces need work. I wish I saw signs they were working more on that.

The article references an oft-quoted Steve Jobs explanation of design and how it is more than just a veneer. “It’s not just how things look, it’s about how things work.” I agree with that statement entirely.  

That said, relying on something Steve Jobs said years ago to justify your work is the wrong way to go about it. During Alan Dye’s tenure as VP of human interface design, Apple has become very opinionated and, arguably, too minimal. Removal of proxy icons is just one example of this. It feels like the veneer is getting way too much attention at the expense of the working bits.

Instead of quoting Steve Jobs, I would have preferred an explanation from Alan Dye about his philosophy of user interface design and what his north star is when he does his work. I’d like him to make his case. If he explained the thinking behind this minimal approach, it might make more sense. Maybe this article was never meant to be that kind of deep dive on design philosophy, but it feels like a missed opportunity.