James Higgs wrote a provocative piece on something that I’ve noticed recently as well: the two sides to Apple’s design aesthetic. On the one hand:
[Apple’s] devices have become increasingly simple and pared down, even as the power contained in them has increased. There is very little, if anything, extraneous on the Magic Trackpad or the MacBook Air. And of course the iPhones 4 and 4S are radically simple, yet well-constructed masterpieces of industrial design.
Yet, when it comes to stuff that isn’t hardware:
But no one laughs when Apple delivers a calendar application for the iPad that tries its hardest to look like a real-word desktop calendar pad, complete with fake leather and “torn” pages.
Still fewer have a chuckle when they see the new Address Book app on Mac OS X Lion, or the even more recent Find My Friends iPhone app.
These apps, and many more besides, all stem from a completely different, and I would say opposite aesthetic sensibility than the plain devices they run on.
They are an expression of purest kitsch, sentimentality, and ornamentation for its own sake. In Milan Kundera’s brilliant definition, kitsch is “the absolute denial of shit”. These are Disney-like apps, sinister in their mendacity.
This isn’t a recent thing either…look at the cheeseball themes and transitions in Keynote (many of them used by Jobs in his keynotes), some of the default system fonts, the emphasis in past keynotes on things like Mail.app themes, etc. Without too much effort, you could pull together many design examples from their currently shipping software that make it appear as though Apple doesn’t have a good aesthetic sense of design at all. But then you look at the general aesthetics of OSX and iOS…I don’t know, it’s really confusing how the same company, especially one that had such strong design leadership, could produce something as beautifully spare as iOS and something as cheesy as the Game Center app. (via ★thefoxisblack)