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Apple and Star Wars together explain why much of the world around you looks the way it does - Quartz
"One of the most effective critiques of the totalizing approach to urban design—the Darth-design of cities, if you will—was architecture critic, activist, and theorist Jane Jacobs. Towards the end of her bestselling 1962 critique of mid-century urban design, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs recounts the number and diversity of the neighbors in the building where she worked. She reports:
“The floor of the building in which this book is being written is occupied also by a health club with a gym, a firm of ecclesiastical decorators, an insurgent Democratic party reform club, a Liberal party political club, a music society, an accordionists’ association, a retired importer who sells maté by mail, a man who sells paper and who also takes care of shipping the maté, a dental laboratory, a studio for watercolor lessons, and a maker of costume jewelry. Among the tenants who were here and gone shortly before I came in, were a man who rented out tuxedos, a union local and a Haitian dance troupe. There is no place for the likes of us in new construction. And the last thing we need is new construction.”

And added, in a forceful footnote: “No, the last thing we need is some paternalist weighing whether we are sufficiently noncontroversial to be admitted to subsidized quarters in a Utopian dream city.”

That there is little room for controversy or discord in the Death Star—amongst its legion of same-suited stormtroopers, say—may go without saying. But what of Apple?

It is clear, first of all, that the company’s success—for all the apparent imperiousness of Jobs—relied, and likely relies still, on discussion, disagreement, and diversity. Jobs himself was famously a stickler for regular “no-holds-barred” meetings in which, while his own leadership had to remain unchallenged, no other presumptions or suppositions were sacred. (Pixar’s irrepressible Alvy Ray Smith would be one of the only employees to challenge Jobs’ control of a whiteboard, part of a duel with Jobs in which dry-erase markers, presumably, stood in for sabers.)

Like the products themselves, however, Apple’s core identity relies on keeping disagreement and discord behind a tightly controlled façade. And sometimes even a tightly controlled interior; one of Jobs’ least successful management interventions on his return to Apple was a short-lived attempt to have all his many thousand employees wear the same, black, custom Issey Miyake clothing. To Jobs’ credit, he quickly withdrew the proposal—but it lived on in the many hundred black turtlenecks Miyake crafted for Jobs’ own, resulting use.

No, if there is something disturbing in the design of Apple’s own apparent Death Star, it is not so much in the company’s clearly successful internal operations, nor in its beautifully singular product range. Rather, it lies in the runaway result of this success; the way in which so many of our interactions with the world, and with each other, are now filtered through the efforts of a single, well-designed and Apple-authored interface.

And beyond well-intentioned, we might even say essential. Particularly given the disorder and predictable unpredictability of complex technological systems, we all crave, and need order. The first Star Wars shoot was so plagued with technical difficulties (and the related derision of the unionized British workforce on the Pinewood Studio lot) that more than one cast member observed that George Lucas appeared far more sympathetic to the authority and order of the Empire than the ragtag Rebel Alliance. Apple has thrived above all in the last two decades by offering the particular beauty that lies in order, organization, and simplicity, and in the predictable delight that results when something technical, unexpectedly, just works."



"We might start inside. A recent profile of Sir Jony Ive in the New Yorker by Ian Parker, “The Shape of Things to Come,” shifts seamlessly from the discussion of consumer objects to that of architecture. Ive, it is suggested, sees himself as an architect too. He finds it, he says, “a curious thing” that in design “we tend to compartmentalize, based on physical scale.” He is reported to assert that he has (in Parker’s words) “taught Foster’s architects something about the geometry of corners,” introducing a seamless, curved detail between wall and floor that now runs throughout the building’s interior.
Yet this detail, and its future life, points to what is in fact one of the main differences between design at the scale of consumer electronics, and that at the scale of architecture and the city.

Apple’s great success as a consumer-focused company is rooted in the one power a consumer has above all: choice. Apple’s products are ubiquitous, above all, because they are far better than what they compete with, a quality that comes precisely from the tight control that Apple exerts on them and their design. But, at the point we don’t like our device, we can—and will—buy a different and better one—from Apple, or from some as-yet-unimaginable competitor.

Yet it is in the nature of architecture that it offers no such choice—the more so the bigger it gets. We can, if we are lucky, sell a house we don’t like. But we can’t sell or dispose of the terrible building across the road. And architecture involves many more people than those who design it, or even pay for it. Myself, I keep thinking of the cleaning staff of the new Apple headquarters; it is for these people, above all, that the usual, clunky detail of wall-meeting-floor exists, with a skirting board to hide the edge of the floor-wax, and catch and disguise the dirt that escapes the polishers. One hopes a special, super-functional polishing device has been designed for them, that will seamlessly clean and feather the floor-wax as it slowly curves into the wall—but one fears that it has not. One thinks as well of Apple’s desk-bound employees, who, so as to preserve the clean lines of the building’s exterior, will not be able to open windows in their offices—despite the Bay Area’s preposterously perfect climate. (“That would just allow people to screw things up,” Jobs apparently declared.)

But here is where the design of products and buildings is most different. The particular conundrum solved by the best teams of architects and city-builders (including all of us as citizens) is how to balance a whole set of competing demands, physical, environmental, and social, against each other—including the demands of the powerful against the needs, and rights, of the powerless.

As we attempt to design 21st-century cities for an increasing landscape of uncertainty, this is an important lesson to remember. Instead of single, grand projects, the staying-power of a city depends on a million connections between its inhabitants, and the natural and technological systems that sustain them. Cities designed tabula rasa, as Jane Jacobs cogently characterized it a generation ago, lack this robust resilience. Instead, their monumental visions of order turn out to hide brittleness, fragility, and frequent catastrophe. Even the most seemingly ordered long-lived city-grid—Manhattan, Barcelona, even San Francisco—simply allows us to better negotiate what is, in reality, a riot of real-world diversity.

It is in this light, perhaps, that one might also examine Apple’s greatest points of corporate difficulty: the interface between the company’s tightly designed and integrated products, and the public software ecosystems it has developed in service of them, the App Store and the Mac App Store. To this architect, these places read a bit like a modernist cityscape; beautiful, elegant, even nice to visit—but very difficult to live in. Like such cities they are also—at least in the case of the Mac App Store—increasingly abandoned, as is usual, by those who can afford to leave.

And yet it is not really Apple that is entirely to blame. The revolution in architecture today—one where the world of screens and devices and the common infrastructure of our cities merge, overlap and combine—is much larger than even the enormous, careful company.

In an awkwardly received, hauntingly prescient diatribe while presenting the Oscar for Best Director in 1979, Francis Ford Coppola declared, “We’re on the eve of something that’s going to make the Industrial Revolution look like a small out-of-town tryout.” What Coppola saw was our world today: “a communications revolution that’s about movies and art and music and digital electronics and satellites, but above all, human talent.”

Steve Jobs’ Apple set out to help create this world—and has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams of the future. George Lucas hired Pixar’s founders, originally, to use technology to make the production of culture easier for himself and a cadre of directors. But Lucas’s digital editing system was quickly eclipsed by Apple’s own, far cheaper, Final Cut Pro—and then, of course, by the iPhones that put high-quality filmmaking and editing into all of our hands. In this, and much else, Apple has helped author a world much like that of Lucas’s far-off galaxy; where all of us are connected, and can tap into vast reserves of invisible power through the device we hold in our hands.

But as Apple’s reach extends into the city and world, into the public sphere as well as the private screen, we should do well to remember these hard-learned lessons of control and openness, hardness and softness, brittleness and resilience. After all, the only thing one can say for certain about a Death Star is that it unexpectedly explodes right before the ending."
apple  starwars  georgelucas  architecture  cities  design  stevejobs  nicholasdemonchaux  history  siliconvalley  filmmaking  urbanism  urbanplanning  control  predicatability  fragility  resilience  unpredicatability  hackers  hackability  jonyive  janejacobs  discussion  disagreement  friction  discord  serendipity  authority  cupertino  pixar  canon  openness  hardness  softness  brittleness  isolation  uncertainty 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Jony’s Patience — Medium
"There are a lot of opinions and ideas about how building a company should be done, but there’s no instruction manual. Every company is different, they change over time, and people are complicated. It’s political, it’s emotional, it’s messy. Sometimes all that company building stuff feels like it gets in the way of just designing the damn product. We all just want to focus on designing and making great things, but building the company is what will support you to do the work you aspire to do…and it takes a long time. When company stuff gets complicated, its easy to complain, to point at the people you think are responsible, or to just quit.

But it’s your job to help. Your role in a company isn’t to just be the designer of products; Your role is to be a designer of that company, to help it become the company that has the ability to make the products you aspire to make. When you joined your company, you probably didn’t think you signed up to help build the company too, but you did. By helping to make your company a better place to work, you make it a better place to design and build things. If you believe that design is critical to the success of the company you’re working for, then you need to prove it everyday. Don’t just think about that one product you need to design in the next 3, 6, or 12 months. Consider the skills, relationships, and tools that you and your company will need for the next 2, 5, 7, or 10 years and start working on them now. Don’t just measure yourself by the output of your very next project; Measure yourself by how you’re improving quality over the course of your next 10 projects. Measure yourself by the quality of the projects of your peers. When you see problems, go tackle them, even if nobody told you to. Put it on yourself to make it better, so that your current and future colleagues won’t have to deal with that same problem. Your job is to be the shoulders that the next generation of designers — and perhaps your future self — at your company will stand on."



"I don’t know whether I have the kind of patience necessary to stay with one company for 20 years, but I assume that people who stay at companies that long don’t plan to from the beginning. I imagine that at some point Jony Ive was enjoying his work so much that he stopped paying attention to the years. What I try to do in my work now is to approach it as if I will be there in 20 years, still pushing. I think about the kinds of products I hope to be building in the next several years, and what capabilities my team and I will need to be able to build those products. As I work on projects in the near term, I try to make sure I’m also making investments in myself, my colleagues, and my team for the long, long term. Working this way helps to make the environment I’m working in continuously better; As it gets better, there’s more reason to just keep going. The distractions fall away. Who knows, maybe the next 20 years will fly by.

If you knew you would stay at your current company for 20 years, what would you do differently, starting tomorrow?
“Even a small thing takes a few years. To do anything of magnitude takes at least five years, more likely seven or eight.” — Steve Jobs, 1995
"

[via: "A great post from @mkruz about patience. I think it applies to education too. https://medium.com/@mkruz/jony-s-patience-670d5a3dc128”
https://twitter.com/matthewward/status/580060988478734336 ]
mikekruzeniski  patience  jonyive  2015  time  education  persistance  organizations  business  longview  billflora  design  technology  tenure  1995  stevejobs  jonathanive 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 6: Accident Blackspot
"AGE OF NON-CONSENT: On my way home from the airport last week, I got into a cab that had a TV screen in the passenger area (as is now common in Boston and other cities). As I always do, I immediately turned it off. A few minutes later, it turned itself on again. That got me thinking about this amazing piece [http://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-fantasy-and-abuse-of-the-manipulable-user ] by Betsy Haibel at Model View Culture, about ‘when mistreating users becomes competitive advantage’, about technology and consent (seriously, go read it; it’s more important that you read that than you read this). I had started thinking more about how technology is coercive and how it pushes or crosses the boundaries of users a few weeks ago, when I got a new phone. Setting it up was an exercise in defending my limits against a host of apps. No, you can’t access my Contacts. No, you don’t need access to my Photos. No, why the hell would you need access to my Location? I had to install a new version of Google Maps, which has crippled functionality (no memory of previous places) if you don't sign into Google, and it tries to convince you to sign in on every single screen, because what I obviously really want is for Google to track my phone and connect it to the rest of my online identity (bear in mind that the only objects that have have a closer average proximity to me than my phone does are pierced through bits of my body). Per that Haibel article, Google’s nagging feels exactly like the boundary-crossing of an unwanted suitor, continually begging for access to me it has no rights to and that I have no intention of providing.

This week, of course, provided a glorious example of how technology companies have normalized being indifferent to consent: Apple ‘gifting’ each user with a U2 album downloaded into iTunes. At least one of my friends reported that he had wireless synching of his phone disabled; Apple overrode his express preferences in order to add the album to his music collection. The expected 'surprise and delight' was really more like 'surprise and delete'. I suspect that the strong negative response (in some quarters, at least) had less to do with a dislike of U2 and everything to do with the album as a metonym for this widespread culture of nonconsensual behaviour in technology. I've begun to note examples of these behaviours, and here are a few that have come up just in the last week: Being opted in to promo e-mails on registering for a website. Being forced by Adobe Creative Cloud into a trial of the newest version of Acrobat; after the trial period, it refused to either run Acrobat or ‘remember’ that I had a paid-up institutional license for the previous version. A gas pump wouldn't give me a receipt until after it showed me an ad. A librarian’s presentation to one of my classes was repeatedly interrupted by pop-ups telling her she needed to install more software. I booked a flight online and, after I declined travel insurance, a blinking box appeared to 'remind' me that I could still sign up for it. When cutting-and-pasting the Jony Ive quote below, Business Insider added their own text to what I had selected. The Kindle app on my phone won’t let me copy text at all, except through their highlighting interface. When you start looking for examples of nonconsensual culture in technology, you find them absolutely everywhere.

Once upon a time, Apple was on the same side as its users. The very first iMac, back in 1998, had a handle built into the top of it, where it would be visible when the box was opened. In Ive’s words, ‘if there's this handle on it, it makes a relationship possible…It gives a sense of its deference to you.’ Does anyone feel like their iPhone is deferential to them? What changed? Part of it is what Ethan Zuckerman called ‘the original sin’ of the Internet [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/08/advertising-is-the-internets-original-sin/376041/ ], the widespread advertising-based model that depends on strip-mining user characteristics for ad targeting, coupled with what Maciej Ceglowski describes as ‘investor storytime’ [http://idlewords.com/bt14.htm ], selling investors on the idea that they’ll get rich when you finally do put ads on your site. The other part is the rise of what Bruce Sterling dubbed “the Stacks” [http://www.well.com/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/459/State-of-the-World-2013-Bruce-St-page01.html ]: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft. Alexis Madrigal predicted [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/12/bruce-sterling-on-why-it-stopped-making-sense-to-talk-about-the-internet-in-2012/266674/ ], “Your technology will work perfectly within the silo...But it will be perfectly broken at the interfaces between itself and its competitors”, and that can only be the case if the companies control what you do both inside and outside the silo. And, finally, of course, our willingness to play ball with them—ie why I didn't want to sign into Google from my phone—has eroded in direct proportion to our trust that the data gathered by companies will be handled carefully (not abused, shared, leaked, or turned over). Right now, a large fraction of my interactions with tech companies, especially the Stacks, feel coerced.

One of the reasons why I care so much about issues of consent, besides all the obvious ones (you know, having my time wasted, my attention abused, and my personal behaviours and characteristics sold for profit) is because of the imminent rise of connected objects. It’ll be pretty challenging for designers and users to have a shared mental model of the behaviour of connected objects even if they are doing their damnedest to understand each other; bring in an coercive, nonconsensual technology culture and it doesn't take a lot of imagination to consider how terrible they could be. The day before Apple’s keynote this week, London-based Internet of Things design firm BERG announced that they were closing their doors (although I prefer to think of them as dispersing, like a blown dandelion clock). The confluence of their demise with Apple’s behaviour made me extra-sad, because BERG were one of the few companies that worked in technology that really seemed to think of their users as people. Journalist Quinn Norton recently wrote a fantastic piece on the theory and practice of politeness, "How to Be Polite...for Geeks" [https://medium.com/message/how-to-be-polite-for-geeks-86cb784983b1 ], which could just as easily be "...for Technology Companies". The Google+ 'real name' fiasco and Facebook's myriad privacy scandals could have been averted if the companies had some empathy for their users, and listened to what they said, instead of assuming that we are all Mark Zuckerbergs [http://dashes.com/anil/2010/09/the-facebook-reckoning-1.html ]. As well as laying down some Knowledge about Theory of Mind and Umwelt [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umwelt ], Quinn notes that politeness is catchy--social norms are created and enforced by what everyone does. I commute by car daily in Boston but I spent a year on sabbatical in Seattle. The traffic rules in Boston and Seattle are virtually identical, but a significant chunk of driver behaviours (in particular, the ones that earn Boston drivers the epithet of 'Massholes') are the result of social norms, tacitly condoned by most of the community. And driving is regulated a lot more closely than tech companies are.

I don’t know what it’ll take to change technology culture from one that is nonconsensual and borderline-abusive to one that is about enthusiastic consent, and it might not even be possible at this point. All I really know is that it absolutely won’t happen unless we start applying widespread social pressure to make it happen, and that I want tech companies to get their shit together before they make the leap from just being on screens to being everywhere around us."
coercion  culture  privacy  technology  consent  debchachra  2014  maciejceglowski  anildash  ethanzuckerman  jonyive  berg  berglondon  quinnnorton  google  apple  facebook  data  betsyhaibel  functionality  behavior  alexismadrigal  socialnetworks  socialmedia  mobile  phones  location  socialnorms  socialpressure  ethics  abuse  jonathanive  maciejcegłowski 
september 2014 by robertogreco
He’s not there – notes from “Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Product”s by Leander Kahney | Magical Nihilism
"‘In America, on the other hand,’ Milton explained, ‘designers are very much serving what industry wants. In Britain, there is more of the culture of the garden shed, the home lab, the ad hoc and experimental quality. And Jony Ive interacts in such a way … [he] takes big chances, instead of an evolutionary approach to design – and if they had focus-grouped Ive’s designs, they wouldn’t have been a success.’

If the education system in America tended to teach students how to be an employee, British design students were more likely to pursue a passion and to build a team around them.

‘As an industrial designer, you have to take that great idea and get it out into the world, and get it out intact. You’re not really practising your craft if you are just developing a beautiful form and leaving it at that.’

I can’t have people working in cubicle hell. They won’t do it. I have to have an open studio with high ceilings and cool shit going on. That’s just really important. It’s important for the quality of the work. It’s important for getting people to do it. – ROBERT BRUNNER

He wanted a ‘small, really tight’ studio. ‘We would run it like a small consulting studio, but inside the company,’ he said. ‘Small, effective, nimble, highly talented, great culture.’4 Setting up a consultancy inside Apple seemed in line with the company’s spirit: unconventional, idea driven, entrepreneurial. ‘It was because, really, I didn’t know any other way,’ Brunner explained. ‘It wasn’t a flash of brilliance: that was the only thing I knew how to do.’

In 1997, English contributed photos to Kunkel’s book about the design group, AppleDesign, but he also worked with a lot of other design studios in the Valley. To his eye, Apple seemed different. It wasn’t just the tools and their focus; the place was rapidly populated with designer toys, too, including spendy bikes, skateboards, diving equipment, a movie projector and hundreds of films. ‘It fostered this really creative, take-a-risk atmosphere, which I didn’t see at other firms,’ said English.

Brunner also made about half a dozen of the designers ‘product line leaders’ (PLLs) for Apple’s major product groups: CPUs, printers, monitors and so on. The PLLs acted as liaisons between the design group and the company, much in the way an outside design consultancy would operate. ‘The product groups felt there was a contact within the design group,’ Brunner said.

Brunner wanted to shift the power from engineering to design. He started thinking strategically. His off-line ‘parallel design investigations’ were a key part of his strategy. ‘We began to do more longer-term thinking, longer-term studies around things like design language, how future technologies are implemented, what does mobility mean?’ The idea was to get ahead of the engineering groups and start to make Apple more of a design-driven company, rather than a marketing or engineering one. ‘We wanted to get ahead of them, so we’d have more ammunition to bring to the process.’

In hindsight, Brunner’s choices – the studio’s separation from the engineering groups, its loose structure, the collaborative workflow and consultancy mind-set – turned out to be fortuitous. One of the reasons Apple’s design team has remained so effective is that it retains Brunner’s original structure. It’s a small, tight, cohesive group of extremely talented designers who all work on design challenges together. Just like the designers had done at Lunar, Tangerine and other small agencies. The model worked."
jonyive  apple  design  robertbrunner  teams  small  engineering  howwework  education  mindset  experimentation  markets  appledesign  collaboration  workflow  groupsize  2014  uk  us  academia  jonathanive 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Apple design chief Sir Jonathan Ive: iPhone was 'nearly axed' - Telegraph
"However, the designer added that the firm does not get enough credit for its decisions to stop working on devices that are “competent” as opposed to “great”. "We have been, on a number of occasions, preparing for mass production and in a room and realised we are talking a little too loud about the virtues of something. That to me is always the danger, if I'm trying to talk a little too loud about something and realising I'm trying to convince myself that something's good,” he said."
apple  iPhone  design  2012  jonathanive  via:Preoccupations  jonyive 
august 2012 by robertogreco
BBC - dot.life: Listening to Mr iPhone
"So how did the company decide what customers wanted - surely by using focus groups? "We don't do focus groups," he said firmly, explaining that they resulted in bland products designed not to offend anyone.
iphone  design  innovation  jonathanive  apple  focus  focusgroups  tcsnmy  jonyive 
july 2009 by robertogreco
The Future Of Apple Is In 1960s Braun: 1960s Braun Products Hold the Secrets to Apple's Future
"What most people don't know is that there's another man whose products are at heart of Ive's design philosophy, an influence that permeates every single product at Apple, from hardware to user-interface design. That man is Dieter Rams"
apple  design  60s  electronics  iphone  mac  productdesign  product  jonathanive  dieterrams  braun  jonyive 
january 2008 by robertogreco

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