Does It Take A History Lesson To Figure Out You Can Make A Product In Different Colors?

from the mindblowing,-like,-wow dept

The amount of attention paid to and interest in industrial design has skyrocketed over the past several years, with people like Jonathan Ives, Apple's chief designer, becoming well known. Without question, industrial design is hugely important in the consumer electronics space, but some of the genius ascribed to it gets a little over the top. Witness a post on a BusinessWeek blog that attributes the launch of the iPod Mini in different colors to "what Apple Learned from Kodak". It says that Apple's decision to give consumers a choice of colors was borne out of Kodak's 1926 release of its Vanity camera in different colors, an attempt to make the product more attractive to women, and that "What Apple did was learn from history, and adopt, adapt, and assimilate past success to current context." So figuring out you can make a product in different colors requires an immensely skilled designer with an acute knowledge of the history of colored products? That seems to be buying into the mystique of industrial design just a little too much. While it was beneficial for Apple to expand the iPod color palette, that move in and of itself wasn't all that innovative, was it? Furthermore, the success of the Mini, and continued success of the iPod, is because of many factors beyond design -- the ability to deliver more functionality at lower prices, for a start.
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Filed Under: colors, design, ipod
Companies: apple


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  1. identicon
    MPR, 12 Dec 2008 @ 10:55am

    design design

    "the ability to deliver more functionality at lower prices"

    things can actually be designed to deliver more functionality at lower prices, so how is that "beyond design"?

    design is more than colourways, and designing under constraints (such as BOM costs) is still design.

    or, did i miss something?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Henry Ford, 12 Dec 2008 @ 11:11am

    Model T

    "You may get the Model T Ford in any color you like, so long as it is black."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2008 @ 11:17am

    No, it doesn't take a history lesson to figure out colors but it does take one to convinced the heads at Apple that offering different colors would be a profitable thing on a product line that's already as successful as is.

    Apple is in the tradition of telling you what you want instead of letting you chose what you want. For the longest time, that color was white and white only. They ditched the original imac (ones that look like tv tubes) color pallets long ago. So in today's apple, even the introduction of a black color was major departure from their design motto (ie, black macbook)

    so ya, you did missed something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Collin, 12 Dec 2008 @ 12:40pm

    Re:

    That's funny, I pretty clearly remember the iMac coming in different colors 3 years before the iPod hit the market. So different colored iPods was not a "major departure from their design motto".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    David, 12 Dec 2008 @ 12:43pm

    Re: design design

    Anything can be designed to do something. So I guess nothing can be "beyond design".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2008 @ 12:50pm

    Not sure how this is a design matter. Seems entirely a marketing matter to reach a larger customer base.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    beevis, 12 Dec 2008 @ 1:24pm

    i leyek purrrrpull

    he heh heh somebody gimme a lighter. burn it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Matthew Muro, 12 Dec 2008 @ 1:24pm

    More Recent Examples

    They can probably look at more recent examples such as the Game Boy and any subsequent versions of Nintendo's handhelds.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Dec 2008 @ 2:58pm

    Colors

    Furthermore, the success of the Mini, and continued success of the iPod, is because of many factors beyond design -- the ability to deliver more functionality at lower prices, for a start.
    No, it's all because of the colors!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Philip, 12 Dec 2008 @ 3:06pm

    iMacs?

    I guess the article forgot the iMacs were the original line of Apple hardware to borne the multi-colour palette. And those colours were based off the original Apple logo.

    The original author isn't very acute with his own knowledge of history.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    John (profile), 12 Dec 2008 @ 5:51pm

    Market to women

    I think the real genius is figuring out how to "market to women" and apply it to the rest of the market.

    Way-back-when, Ford introduced automatic transmissions on the Mustang "for women", yet now it's very difficult to find a manual transmission car.

    Someone in the electronics world thought that women like color, so now all of Apple's products come in color.
    This makes a certain amount of sense since PC's (and printers and other hardware) have usually come in two colors: gray and black. Why? Because a *man's* office doesn't need those frilly colors. Who wants a blue computer? We're men! Gray and black is all we need! And sometimes we're happy with just gray.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    nasch, 13 Dec 2008 @ 10:15am

    Re: Re: design design

    There's also manufacturing and marketing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Sim Wong Hoo, 13 Dec 2008 @ 1:57pm

    Gee, wasn't Creative Labs offering up Zen Micros in 10 different colors back when you could get your ipods in any color, as long as it was white? Just like Creative was making MP3 players years before apple even though of the ipod...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    EngineerZ, 15 Dec 2008 @ 10:05am

    Re:

    Heck, You can go a lot further back than the Zen Micro... The Regency TR-1 transistor radio, arguably the iPod of the 1950s (e.g. see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4265374.stm ), came in a variety of colors. Not to say Apple got the idea from Regency or Creative, rather it's not all that innovative of a concept. Consumer electronic manufacturers have been offering their devices in multiple colors continuously through the years. It's not a forgotten Kodak concept.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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