Tagged : Apple

iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, iCampus

Apple is busy building a new campus in California. Their soon-to-be headquarters costs several billions of dollars, is set to be net-zero energy and is designed by one of my favourite architects, Sir Norman Foster. It’s gonna be a remarkable building for sure. But there’s more to it than just these facts… because there’s a video!

This video made me think of something I always knew, but never fully realized; A building is basically ‘just a product’, thus the same compared to other products like cars, electronics and furniture. Similar to these products, a building also needs to be designed, sold and ultimately be used.

We’re not gonna focus on the design of this ‘product’. I think it looks great, both the design and functionality are awesome and the campus looks transparant but essentially is a fortress… in other words, it’s exactly what we think of Apple and its products. Instead I want to talk about the ‘selling-part’ and explain what this has to do with this building ‘being a product’.

New-Apple-Campus-Rendering-cupertino-steve-jobs

Apple didn’t have to sell the project to their Board of Directors. Steve said yes, which is all you need. The project also didn’t have to be sold to the architect (“Norman, will you please design this building with us?”). When Norman Foster got the call he probably said “yes” before Steve could even ask the question. However, the building needs to be ‘sold’ to the Cupertino City Council. If they don’t like the design, think it’s too big, too whatever, the project is off.

Although few can imagine the city council to disapprove the project, it’s still a possibility (remember Steve Job’s battle to tear down his own house?) This is why Apple left nothing to chance. In 2011 Steve Jobs personally presented the proposal to the council. In October 2013 Apple again presented their plans in front of the council. This time they also showed a short video (see video above).

In this video, Apple presents their campus as if it’s a new iPhone. They talk more about the process of the design than the actual features. Typical for Apple, they don’t talk about the giant size of the building, or the costs, or the jobs it will bring to the area (the ‘specs’ so to speak of). Instead, they focus on trees and the landscape; “80 percent of the site will be green space”.

jony ive and norman foster

The video itself is a typical Apple production. We see the product (the building) and its designers. Norman Foster functions as as Jony Ive and designers use phrases which can also be used to describe the newest iPhones. What to think of:

“This project is pushing the boundaries of what’s technically possible in almost every aspect.”

“Everything is hand crafted for this project.”

Remember they’re talking about their new campus, not a new iGadget. To me this proves Apple really has design and marketing in their DNA (as if I ever needed any proof, which I didn’t). They did an incredible job to market this building as if it’s a consumer product.

Steve Jobs was proud to be involved in four revolutionary Apple products: the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Let’s add a fifth revolutionary ‘consumer product’ to the list… the iCampus.

Note: The Cupertino City Council unanimously approved the project in October 2013.

Skeuomorphism

These days, everyone seems to talk about skeuomorphism, not in the last place because of Jony Ive’s design revolution at Apple. I follow this discussion closely because this discussion also applies to Kiozk.com, a company I co-founded. More on skeuomorphism later, first a little introduction on Kiozk.

When you visit Kiozk.com and set the location to Groningen (a Dutch city), you’ll see a long list with activities based on your time and location. The activity at the top of the list is about to start, the more you scroll down, the later the activity takes place. Essentially, this is all you need to know about Kiozk, although there’s much more to it.

screenshot Kiozk Groningen

Kiozk, a modern kiosk

We see Kiozk as the modern equivalent of a kiosk. No need to collect dozens of flyers or search the Internet to find something to do. Instead, use Kiozk and you’ll immediately see activities taking place nearby. This led to an important design-question. If we see ourselves as a modern day kiosk, shouldn’t we look like a kiosk as well?

Skeuomorphism

We quickly learned this is called skeuomorphism… Skeu-what!? In short, it means that a digital object closely emulates objects in the real world. Check these examples: 12 and 3. In other words, a digital button looks like a real-world button, so our digital Kiozk should resemble a real-world kiosk as well.

To Skeu or Not to Skeu

Last year, there were many arguments in favor of skeuomorphism. After all, Scott Forstall still worked for Apple and iOS was filled with real-life objects, materials and shapes. Since many people were (and still are) used to this skeuomorphic design, it made sense to apply the same design philosophy to Kiozk as well. So we did (well, only during our mock-up phase).

We tried wooden textures…
kiozk skeuomorphism - wood
Made the activity-feed resemble paper…
kiozk skeuomorphism - paper
We even used leather stitching at some point (yes I know, it looks terrible).
kiozk skeuomorphism - leather stitching

We literally tried hundreds of designs for the Kiozk homepage. Some were skeuomorphic and some used the so called flat design. In the end, we choose the modern and more minimalist look and ditched skeuomorphism. In hindsight, this is the best decision we could’ve made. After all, with the current design revolution at Apple, skeuomorphism is now officially outdated.

kiozk skeuomorphism - current flat designThis is the current activity-feed.
We hope to perfect the design within several weeks.

Google vs. Apple

My summer holiday of 2012 was a 3000 mile road trip in the United States. It was one of my best holidays ever. So, how come I never wrote about it here? The answer is simple. Since I arrived back in the Netherlands, I’ve been quite busy creating something (more on that in the future). Surprisingly, I finally found some time to write about the USA trip… Today it’s time for part two; “Google vs. Apple”.

Second stop, Silicon Valley, California. It’s the place where companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and thousands of small technology startups have their headquarters. Since I’m interested in technology and use Apple and Google products every day, I decided it would be great to visit these two companies in their real Silicon Valley habitat.

Apple

Apple is well known for its vertically integrated products. It is impossible to (legally) install an app on my iPhone without using the Apple App Store. And their operating system (Mac OSX) only runs on Macbooks and iMacs only. They simply want to be in control of everything. The same applies to their Cupertino headquarters at One Infinite Loop.

Outside, the grass is mown with greatest precision, bushes and flowers are aligned perfectly and the building looks very ‘introvert’. Apple is in full control. Nonetheless, it was possible to go inside and take a quick look at their courtyard.

The same desire for control is apparent here. The courtyard is designed with ‘oversight’ as purpose. There are not trees, no hidden corners, there’s nowhere to ‘hide’ for its employees. But at least they tried to make it look a bit more fun by adding the parasols.

Google

Google’s next. It’s the company who brings us software like Google Search, Gmail, Chrome and Android. Their software, contrary to Apple, can be used by nearly everyone on almost any device. Google believes in an open society, which can be seen in the way they set up their Mountain View headquarters.

There are no fences to stop tourists, they even allowed us to walk among Google staffers in the courtyard at the Googleplex.

There are Google bikes everywhere. These GBikes are used to pedal from one building to another and are free of charge for employees.

Also, Google staffers can use many recreational facilities, like a volleyball court. How cool is that!

And what to think of Stan, the life-sized T-Rex skeleton that lives in the middle of the campus?

But Google definitely won the cool-factor for their headquarters when I saw the driverless Google car which drove around on the parking lot.

It will be interesting to see which of these companies will ultimately win the software battle. Google (open) or Apple (closed). Meantime, based on my visits, Google decisively won the real-world headquarters battle. But how long will their victory last?

Update: In November 2013 I wrote about the new Apple Headquarters. Click here for the article.

My next stop: Highway 1

Read part one of my USA trip here.