Archive for June, 2016

Minimalism is not the same as Simplicity

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Ken Segall’s article in The Guardian about how Apple has lost its way resonates with me.  He writes about how Steve Jobs’ love of simplicity “could be seen in Apple’s hardware, software, packaging, marketing, retail store design, even the company’s internal organization” and how this has been lost under Tim Cook.

As an Apple customer for 34 years, I have appreciated the brilliance of Steve’s Apple managed complexity to allow a user to focus on the task at hand. Often we had to change our ways to accommodate simplicity, but Steve’s simplicity was aimed at serving us — his customers — and our needs, including needs we didn’t know we had. And this was accomplished by intense devotion to user interface guidelines that allowed us to use and learn how to use Apple’s machines.

Under Cook & Ive, simplicity has given way to facile simplification of the user interface — sacrificing function in service of form. Now Steve cared deeply about form, but he wasn’t about creating baubles.  We got beautiful products, but ‘they just worked.’

Now we have decoration without purpose.  The User Interface has been made minimal — loss of color and contrast, type only a youthful graphic designer can read — even while the hardware specifications allow more.  Rather than serving users, the Macintosh design ethos has become increasingly minimal, apparently because phones and tablets are limited.  Each MacOS software iteration seems to devolve like an underground fishing losing its vision.

Just as bad are the losses of valuable functionality and capability in the software applications we have used for photos, video, and music.  The newly minimal applications don’t support the huge investments in user content that have been assembled in the consumer grade iMovie and iPhoto, or the professional Aperture.  Yet ironically, iTunes has become so bloated that I no longer use it to listen to music from my own collection.

Nowadays, the only applications that still conform to Apple’s User Interface Guidelines are from Microsoft! Steve must be tossing in his grave.