TR: Why did it take so long for something as physically beautiful as the iPod to come about?
BM: When I went to my first Hanover Fair in 1972 in Germany and went into this enormous place–22 halls they had, which included computers–I was just blown away by the excellence and the beautiful wonder of these machines. Companies like Nixdorf from Germany and Datasaab from Sweden were doing just stellar designs that seemed to be really inspirational. Then it seemed that we kind of stepped way back. We lost our ability to be doing interesting things in computers for a long time.
BM: Well, I think maybe it just moved into the mainstream professional phase. In the early days, they were more driven by prestige, probably.
TR: What’s a good example of stellar design today?
BM: The iPod. And it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with the iPhone. I haven’t had a chance to play with that. All you can tell at this point is that it’s a stunning visual design. But whether it’s going to be important, influential, successful–all those things are yet to be discovered. It’s a much more challenging task to move into the telephone world now than it was to be at the leading edge of the iPod world.
TR: Parting advice?
BM: Put together a team with a great engineer, a crazy designer, a good businessperson, and a good human-factors scientist or psychologist of some kind, and put them in a room and get them to try to work together. It’s a big challenge, but they come to a point, surprisingly quickly, where they realize that what they can achieve together is much more than they could do individually.
More design articles: Take an inside look at the making of the Ocean, a new phone from a company called Helio (see “Soul of a New Machine”). Take a decidedly non-inside look at how Apple approaches design (see “Different”), and read a review of how Apple remains deeply committed to being a computer company (see “The ‘New’ Apple”). Get insights on the state of Web design from print-design legend Roger Black (see “Help Me Redesign the Web”). Take a glimpse at the pieces of technology that the prominent industrial designers featured in these articles say have influenced the way they think about their work (see “Objects of Desire”). Finally, hear from Technology Review’s Editor in Chief, Jason Pontin, on the well-designed technologies that are “beautiful machines” in this video.