I always think that my enthusiasm for Apple products is because Jonathon Ive (Apple’s heads of design) and me are exact contemporaries. We’re the same age and studied industrial design at the same time in colleges just 30 miles apart.
I reckon I can see the same influences I had when I was a child. Like, for example, the production design from Gerry Anderson’s Space 1999. (Tell me the Comlock communicator was not the inspiration for the iPhone…).
So when I see something new from Apple, I almost always think ‘yeah, that’s how I would have done it’. Apart from the positioning of the USB slots on my iMac, of course.
Another common influence was Californian outfit Frog Design, one of the hippest design consultancies. Back in the late 1980s Frog was leading the trend for post-modern product design. The idea was to make hi-tech goods more ‘friendly’ and ‘accessible’.
At the time, some of you might remember, we were in the middle of trend that saw hi-fi, for example, festooned with superfluous lights and dials. In the 1980s Amstrad used to sell loads of super-cheap ‘tower’ hi-fi systems loaded with useless graphic equalizers.
Even upmarket hi-fi equipment was deemed too serious to be anything other than matt black and technical looking.
Frog flew in the face of that idea, looking to remove controls and switches and really simplify the appearance of products. The mainstream thought otherwise. You can’t sell expensive consumer durables if they are too toy-like, rather than aping a Boeing cockpit.
You might argue that premium car interiors are still being executed with late 1980s thinking. Designers cite Apple’s stripped-out product design as an influence, but the result is rarely so simple and restrained.
However, I’ve recently spent quite a few hours in cars with Head-Up Displays (HUD), which could – and perhaps should – revolutionise interior design.
The Saab 9-5 and the BMW 5-series Touring (pictured) mixed the car’s speed with the local speed limit and sat-nav directions.
I have to say that over long periods of driving I rarely needed to look at the rest of the dashboard. Climate controls don’t need fiddling with and an autobox further reduces the mechanical effort of driving the car.
Most importantly, the display appears to be hovering in space, someway down the car’s bonnet. That means is much easier and quicker to switch you’re the focus of your eyes from the road ahead to the HUD display. Refocusing from the 50ft in front of the car, to instruments just a few inches away takes too long.
Surely the HUD would also allow the button and dial-strewn interiors of today’s cars to be greatly toned down. More sophisticated HUDs and more fingertip controls on the steering wheel could allow car interiors to make the long-delayed leap into the future. And the driver could keep his hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.