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Jony Ive’s Fragmented Legacy: Unreliable, Unrepairable, Beautiful Gadgets

Kyle Wiens, iFixit:

Ive succeeded at building on the concepts he celebrated in Rams’ work at a vastly greater scale than anything Braun ever produced. The iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook Air, the physical Apple Store, even the iconic packaging of Apple products—these products changed how we view and use their categories, or created new categories, and will be with us a long time. And Apple has made a lot of them—they’ve stamped out over one billion iPhones to date, with a current production rate north of 600,000 per day.

Rams loves durable products that are environmentally friendly. That’s one of his 10 principles for good design: “Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment.” But Ive has never publicly discussed the dissonance between his inspiration and Apple’s disposable, glued-together products. For years, Apple has openly combated green standards that would make products easier to repair and recycle, stating that they need “complete design flexibility” no matter the impact on the environment.

Gary Hustwit, the documentarian behind the design-focused films Objectified and Rams, understands Dieter Rams’ conflicted views on Apple’s products better than many alive. “He doesn’t feel like he’s responsible [for consumerism], but I think he definitely feels like he had a role in getting to where we are now.

“I think he looks at our modern world of throwaway products and hyper-consumerism in horror, really,” Hustwit told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “They were trying to make honest products that would last a lifetime.”

It’s a shame that Ive is leaving Apple without reconciling this. His iPod started the practice of gluing in batteries, a technique that initially brought scorn but has since become the industry norm. AirPods channel much of Rams’ design aesthetic, except they have a built-in death clock and stop working after a couple years. The last seven years of Apple laptop designs have pushed the envelope of thinness, sacrificing upgradeability, serviceability, external ports, and usable keyboards along the way.

 

It’s time for Apple to refocus on all of the aspects of good design. Ive’s influence has brought us more than a billion beautifully made, accessible products. But beautiful has come at the cost of usefulness, durability, respect for the user’s resourcefulness, and the environment. There are Braun juicers and razors and furniture from Rams’ time still usable today, but we won’t be able to say the same in twenty years about today’s MacBooks or AirPods. That’s a shame. Apple can do better.

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