Real artists

by Thomas Brady in , , ,


So if you're any kind of Mac nerd you've by now seen numerous photos of early iPhone prototypes now made public domain by inclusion as evidence in the ongoing Apple v. Samsung case.

The Verge featured write-ups, with galleries, on the 26th and the 30th and NetworkWorld today posts a deposition from Douglas Satzger, an industrial design lead who worked at Apple at the time the iPhone was being developed.

There are a few interesting things to me about all this. On the snarky end, the inexcusably poor coverage has been a bit of a surprise. The number of headlines and even whole articles accusing Apple of ripping off Sony design, having clearly not read any of the words in the source materials that weren't in one of the pictures of the prototypes is appalling. It's pretty clear, if you bother to read any of this, that a designer (or some designers) was (were) asked to design something in Sony's style.

The most striking thing of all, to me, is the design itself. This composition from The Verge tells the story best:

It's clear, looking at that 2005 design, that Apple envisioned the iPhone as we know it now—the iPhone 4 and 4s industrial design—before they designed the original iPhone and the 3G/3GS.

I'm very impressed by a company that can not only devise what is, in their estimation, the perfect design and eventually realize it in a shipping product, but can also ship iterative, real-world-constraints-compatible versions on the way there—iterative, real-world versions, by the way, that disrupt entire industries, several at a time. The iPhone was clear two steps forward for Apple, despite the one-step back design and capabilities of the first generation.

Apple had to make some compromises to get that design to market. They had to choose: do we make something that is as powerful as we want, but is maybe a tad way-too-gigantic, or do we sacrifice some power to get the right size? What can we ship now that will be a good jumping off point for the next version, which can be another step toward the product we dream of shipping?

Two of my favorite Steve Jobs quotes come to mind.

"I'm as proud of what we don't do as I am of what we do"

And, of course, "Real artists ship."