I would argue that broadening Jony Ive’s design oversight to
include software in addition to hardware was a mistake as big as
putting Cue in charge of the App Store. The software side of
Apple’s user interfaces — especially on iOS, which isn’t as
hardened by long tradition as on the Mac — has become steadily
more cryptic under Ive’s control. Some of this is due to Apple’s
need to squeeze more functionality into the OS, but Ive hasn’t
been up to the task of melding the new functions into the UI in a
consistent and discoverable way.
To me, Ahrendts’s five years in charge of Retail has been similar
to Ive’s time as Chief Design Officer. The Apple Stores look
better than ever, but they don’t work as well as they used to. No
one I know looks forward to going to an Apple Store, even when
it’s for the fun task of buying a new toy. No doubt a lot of this
is due to Apple’s success and the mobs of people milling about,
but Ahrendts didn’t solve the problem of efficiently handling the
increased customer load.
I think the problem with the Apple Store shopping experience is primarily that, in the iPhone era, Apple’s popularity has increased far more than they’ve increased their retail footprint. Demand has outstripped supply.
But the comparison to Ive taking responsibility for software design is interesting, too, because I think he’s also taken more responsibility for the design of the stores. When they say he’s head of design, they mean he’s head of all design. Ive has taken more of an interest in architecture in the last decade, and there are a lot of similarities between Apple Park and Apple’s newer retail stores.
★ Monday, 25 February 2019