The iMac looks like a jelly bean pregnant with a computer, or so goes some of the more off-hand reactions to the now iconic Apple iMac. The vision and audacity to place a computer monitor and processor inside a transparent piece of colorful plastic, without it looking cheap and tacky, was the gamble of one Jonathan Ive, designer of amongst other Apple products, the iPad.
Well history shows that Ive succeeded, tireless development of plastic molding, along with visits to a jelly bean factory, brought the iMac to life. It also cemented what could be considered Apple’s corporate mantra, to make products that are an emotional and sensory experience for their users. If anyone embodied this approach (well, aside from the obvious), it is Jonathan Ive. But to put this ‘emotional experience’ solely down to the extraordinary aesthetics of Apple’s products is to ignore the precision and complete lack of superfluous elements that give the iPad and its sibling products that smooth, solid feel. Ive is said to have a near ‘alchemical’ sense for metallurgy and spends time in Japan studying the metal folding techniques of Samurai sword makers and is obsessed with finding new ways to make casings thinner and with ever more miniscule tolerances (the tiny gaps between casings and components). When you combine this with Ive’s following of Dieter Ram’s ten principles of good design, you slowly start to gauge the origins of the iPad’s design.
So what does this mean for the future look, feel and functionality of the iPad? Well lets start with the basics, the next models of the iPad are going to be thinner, more rounded and have less ‘tolerances’. I know what you are thinking, so far so obvious. But what about the kinks in the iPad design, for example, the dropping out of the wireless due to its antennae placement? Well, Ive and his team take an approach of looking to be wrong and then exploring iteration after iteration, until its right. Again it is fair to say, we will continue to see Apple’s ability to iron the iPad’s flaws as models progress. So now to new features, with the predicted inclusion of an A6 processor, Ive and his team will have their work cut out making sure the perfect dimensions of the iPad make room for the additional circuitry and components that come with a more powerful processor. Also, both retina display and an SD card slot whilst predicted for the iPad 2 will hopefully make an appearance on future models. Along with the anticipated Thunderbolt port (it is fair to say Ive et all have removed any doubt over a possible USB port on future iPad models) the inclusion of an SD card slot will present design quandaries for Ive, not least in his pursuit of the perfect metal outer shell of the iPad.
There is little doubt that whilst Ive remains at Apple, Apple shall remain head and shoulders above its competitors in the design field, no one, not even Jobs himself, is more responsible for the superiority of the iPad’s design over its peers. The only perceivable speed bump is with Ive’s relationship with Tim Cook, who does not have the product-obsession of his predecessor. Although visionary himself, Ive is not a salesman of Jobs-proportions, he relied on others to sell his visions and it was his intimate relationship with Jobs that allowed him to pursue the impossible. For Ive to continue his current trajectory, he needs Cook to support him in development as well as provide a suitable mouth piece for product unveiling.