Minimalism/Modernism and Apple
Minimalism started in the 1960s in New York City. It started as a break from Action paint out of the Abstract Expressionism movement. The minimalism movement was to make the art about itself and not have anything too personal. So, minimalism used simplistic designs and eliminated any extra visuals; the art was about the form of the art piece and wasn’t aimed to invoke other emotions. The materials used included aluminum, plastics, sheet metal, and glass and usually were pronounced in simple and geometric forms. Apple’s designs also take from the modernism movement which started in the late 19th-20th centuries and was a direct opposition to realism.
Steve Jobs attributed Apple’s aesthetic to the style of homes and architecture around him; namely, the Eichler style home with wood-paneled walls and floor-to-ceiling glass windows made popular in California in the 1950s-1970s by Joseph Eichler. This style is said to be the quintessential example of mid-century modern and California-modern architecture and have influenced design across many industries. It’s possible to investigate Eichler style homes as its own aesthetic since this design style was a major player in bringing postmodernism to architecture, but it was this essence of design that inspired Steve Jobs: simplicity and reproducibility.
I have always been drawn to the minimalist aesthetic of Apple products. Every part of the design has a clear intention, from the software to hardware to packaging to their stores. They truly make beautiful tech. Regardless if you appreciate Apple or use their products, no one can deny that their industrial design is some of the best in the world and their products are appealing. Many people say Apple is a fashion company. Evidence of this is how many AirPods you see in peoples’ ears while walking around campus; everyone has them. Now, it may be true that Apple products became fashion statements, but that only speaks to the aesthetic of their products. They are desirable among many. Early on, Steve Jobs intended to connect people with technology. I think it is safe to say he has done so.
Their aesthetic is pretty straightforward: keep it as simple as possible. This was Steve Jobs motto. Why bulk something up or use a fastener when an adhesive or snap fit, for example, could be used to disguise the interface? For how much we use our computers and phones, the products should be comfortable to use and should be appealing. Nowadays, most of the Mac products use brushed aluminum casing with black trim. There is one logo on the lid of the laptops with no other writing, stickers, labels, etc. Other PCs come with Intel stickers and manufacturing labels visible to the user.
If we think back to technology prior to the iPhone, it was ugly. Most of everything was a black box (Nokia phones, PCs, calculators). Apple completely changed the game when it comes to aesthetics of technology. Look around, almost all phones and laptops on the market has adopted the emphasis on design for aesthetics. Samsung and Huawei phones are basically copying everything Apple does, making minimal changes to avoid patent infringement (they may have better specs, but they just don’t work like iPhones do).
Because I am drawn to this aesthetic, I am trying to incorporate it in my final project. Apple has been doing this for some time now and it is clear their industrial design department runs the company, so it will be difficult to completely emulate their designs. I will be using brushed aluminum, using curvy lines, and incorporating thin materials wherever possible. Pinterest. “What an Aesthetic. | Home Office Setup, Desk Inspiration, Apple Products.” Accessed February 24, 2020. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/427138345905993364/. Trotter, Cate. “Top 50 Flagship Stores in the World.” Insider Trends (blog), March 6, 2017. https://www.insider-trends.com/top-50-flagship-stores-in-the-world/.  Alessandra Ruggeri. “How Apple’s Packaging Gives Buyers a Sensory Experience That Strengthens the Brand.” Swedbrand Group (blog), August 3, 2017. https://www.swedbrand-group.com/blog/how-apples-packaging-gives-buyers-a-sensory-experience-that-strengthens-the-brand.  “Apple IPhone 11 Features That Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Doesn’t Have – Business Insider.” Accessed April 4, 2020. https://www.businessinsider.com/apple-iphone-11-vs-samsung-galaxy-s20-features-2020-2.  Encyclopedia Britannica. “Minimalism | Art Movement.” Accessed April 6, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/art/Minimalism.  “Eichler Home Remodeling Ideas Photo Gallery.” Real Estate Website, www.eichlerforsale.com/eichler-remodeling-ideas.php.