Daily Report: Apple Shake-Up May Lead to Design Shift

Steven P. Jobs, the Apple chief executive who died a year ago, pushed the company’s software designers to use virtual doodads that mimic the appearance and behavior of real-world things, like wooden shelves for organizing newspapers and the page-flipping motion of a book. But the management shake-up that Apple announced on Monday is likely to mean that Apple will shift away from such visual tricks, which many people within the company look down upon, Nick Wingfield and Nick Bilton report in Thursday’s New York Times.

As part of the changes, the company fired Scott Forstall, the leader of Apple’s mobile software development and a disciple of Mr. Jobs. While Mr. Forstall’s abrasive style and resistance to collaboration with other parts of the company were the main factors in his undoing, his removal also represents the departure of the most vocal and high-ranking proponent of the visual design style favored by Mr. Jobs.

The executive who will now set the direction for the look of Apple’s software is Jonathan Ive, who has long been responsible for Apple’s minimalist hardware designs. Mr. Ive, despite his close relationship with Mr. Jobs, has made his distaste for the visual ornamentation in Apple’s mobile software known within the company, according to current and former Apple employees who asked not to be named discussing internal matters.

This may seem like little more than an internal disagreement over taste. But Apple venerates design like few other companies of its size, and its customers have rewarded it handsomely as a result. Apple’s decisions can influence how millions of people use and think about digital devices – not only its own but those made by other companies that look to Apple as a standard-setter in design.

Axel Roesler, associate professor and chairman of the interaction design program at the University of Washington, says Apple’s software designs had become larded with nostalgia, unnecessary visual references to the past that he compared to Greek columns in modern-day architecture. He said he would like to see Mr. Ive take a fresh approach.

“Apple, as a design leader, is not only capable of doing this, they have a responsibility for doing it,” he said. “People expect great things from them.”

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