Apple?s Weltanschauung, Forward-Thinking Fashion Sense & Creative Homage to Bauhaus

You must realize the fear and hatred which my Weltanschauung instills in people.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole

As a Mac user and a Mac Observer, itis been interesting and delightful to watch Appleis fashion sense as it has changed over the last few years. By fashion sense, I mean Appleis inclusion of color, translucent plastics and eye-catching designs in each of its hardware products, starting with the 1998 iMac.

First it was the turquoise motif of the original iMac and the "Blue-and-White" Power Mac G3; accompanying this was the all-in-one form factor (iMac) and the side-door (Power Mac). Then we saw the "fruity" colors of both the iMac and the iBook. At this time, the AirPort base station came along with its metallic coloring, similar to the brushed-metal appearance of the QuickTime interface. Eventually, we saw the PowerBook G4is Titanium shell. The Power Mac took on a coloring similar to the AirPort base. Now, we have the "snow" casing of the iBook, the iMac, and the new AirPort base stations.

If we view these designs on a continuum, we see an obvious, evolving design sense on Appleis part, where each wave of design improves upon the previous "styles." (Duh.) The closest thing Iive seen here is the auto industry, where auto magazines give us annual previews of next-yearis models. Every 18 months or so, Apple treats the world to new directions in design and component configuration, sans preview.

How long before the rest of the PC industry catches on? I donit know. It appears that it will be a while. Looking at news reports of PC trade shows, the common thread of such shows appears to be ongoing fixation with merely the introduction of faster processors or more features in Microsoft Windows.

But, who cares about the rest of the PC world?

What keeps us Mac watchers interested is wondering what Apple will do next. Time and again, we think that Apple canit design a better mouse trap, and they spring on us the new iMac, for example, but, still we wonder what they will do next? How many encores can they manage?

Themes and motif. Style and order. Form and function.

Why am I opining on all of this? Because style is underrated. Apple exudes it, yet the PC world shuns it. The analysts wring their hands over the fact that the PC industry is in a slump, not realizing that style is the way to get out of it. Youive heard before that the PC has been commoditized, meaning that it is now as novel as the television.

The industry is unwilling to do whatever it takes to push the personal computer to the next level. I started talking about this in my column "The Great Industrial-Design Shift," pointing to a time when computers will grow up and become the digital appliance that everyone claims them to be.

The PC isnit a digital appliance/hub yet. The beige box is more than a shape. The beige box symbolizes the PC being stuck in the past as "merely a tool." Innovative PC designs will signal its rebirth as a true digital hub -- not just a PC with a DVD-burner and FireWire port. When the shape of the PC becomes more "Apple-esque" -- for lack of a better term -- that is when we will see that grand convergence of the personal computer and the rest of our digital devices, the melding of "digital" and "lifestyle."

What do you think?

Note: Appleis design aesthetic reminds me of the Bauhaus movement. The Bauhaus movement is what introduced to architecture the novel combination of art with engineering and craftsmanship. As one scholar says, "Everyone sitting on a chair with a tubular steel frame, using an adjustable reading lamp, or living in a house partly or entirely constructed from prefabricated elements is benefiting from a revolution in design largely brought about by the Bauhaus." I wonder if Apple is the Bauhaus of the computer industry. Read about Bauhaus at http://people.ucsc.edu/~gflores/bauhaus/history.html.

Rodney O. Lain worships his Power Mac G4 Cube. When he isnit genuflecting before Appleis Cubic design homage to Bauhaus, he writes his "iBrotha" column for The Mac Observer. Rodney lives in Minnesota.

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