1988, NeXT OS
“In college I went out of my way to go to workstations with the NeXT OS. I was able to take mundane Unix tasks and do them with a good graphical user interface,” says Matias Duarte, vice president of experience design at L.A. mobile-communications firm Helio. “That type of OS as a category is iconic, but the whole windowing and pointing paradigm is really old. I expected better by the 21st century. It’s about time we started to break through the constraints of that paradigm.” Shown here is a mid-1990s version of the NeXT OS, NeXTSTEP.
“If you look at a modern browser like Internet Explorer or Safari, you see the URL bar, the Back and Forward buttons, Home, and Refresh,” says Rolston. “We’ve added things, we’ve made it prettier, but the browser hasn’t been reinvented. The original Netscape design deserves the credit. Outside the browser and the shape of computers, this space [PC-era design] has yet to produce lasting icons in a grander sense, an iconic form that is reproduced over and over.”
“Amazon is iconic, but not necessarily good design,” says Rolston. “A Jeep is iconic, but if you’ve ever ridden in a Jeep, it’s crap. Amazon represents a basic approach to e-commerce. It’s balanced cacophony: there’s search, reviews, and comments swirling around these pages. With these tools, you almost serendipitously end up with a basket of things to buy. It’s iconic because it nailed early on the basic approach of a vast catalogue.”