Headline, September03, 2013

''' !!! DESIGN DARES !!! '''

One constant in Steve Jobs life, times and great accomplishments was his eye for design. When he returned to Apple in 1997, his designers began winning all sorts of awards.

But ''anyone committed to cutting-edge contemporary art and design has has to wonder if Apple's design gurus deserve all those accolades,'' says one author. ''There's more than a standard retro chic to Apple's goods. I may be in love with my Mac Air, but giving it a prize in 2011, is like giving a rave to contemporary paintings that rehash Mondrian's grids. For me, Apple's modern styling is like work by Chippendale and Tiffany : you may love it, but you know your work is stuck in the past.''

''Apple's success has its roots in the streamlined forms of 1930s trains and toasters (not to mention the sleek sculptures of constantin Brancusi) and in mid century riffs on those styles. As one blogger has pointed out, certain products by Jonathan Ive, the design guru at Apple, are close to being the clones of Braun's postwar designs. No one could imagine doo-wop counting as the most timely pop of the 21st century, but we hold up Apple's old fashioned, Brauntish products as just right for our times.

Here's what's even weirder :  I'm almost alone in my reservations about Apple's new-old look.
''I love it, I have to admit,'' says Renny Ramakers a former design critic and art historian, who now runs the great design firm Droog, way out on the leading edge. ''I'm not theorizing every product.'' says Ramakers. ''Some products I just want to use   -and it's a present when it's also beautiful.''

Maybe Ramakers heedless love affair with Macs help pinpoint the source of their power. Like all the greatest modernist objects, from Bugatti cars to Braun radios. Apple's goods have an almost hypnotic effect. They aren't just a product of modern life; they sell it on us as cool and unruffled, without any glimpse of its dark underside.

It is easy to imagine a ThinkPad or a Dell on the assembly line, in a clanking factory that stinks of solder: you can see their every joint and parts; you can almost smell the plastic they are made from. Their attempts at decoration only make their industrial coverup more apparent, like reeds planted near a tailing pond. Whereas the water-carved clamshell of the beautiful Air just seems to have arisen from the waves, immaculate and virtuous, without a whiff of brimstone or fuel oil.

One other reading of what the Air represents : it may not be about the apotheosis of modernist design so much as its approaching disappearance.
Gijs Baker is both an Apple Lover and one of the great figures in radical postmodern design. What Bakker loves about his iPhone is the way the object is barely there at all; you don't have to praise its look because it's so easy to ignore it. ''The form is almost nothing,'' he says, and that lets the function take over completely.

Bakker didn't mention the iPad, but maybe that's the ultimate example of design that has disappeared  -and a sign of a way forward for Apple. There's really nothing to say about the look and feel of an iPad. As an almost featureless slab, it is an object that seems too simple other than it is.

Describing the ''look'' of the iPad is like describing the look of a sheet of a glass. The iPad almost lets you leave the world of objects and jump straight into the Web space. The pairing down of the Air may be the first step toward escaping shape altogether, which Apple then achieves in the iPad.

It could be that Apple's very latest, very greatest products might not be the last gasp of modernism, after all. They could be the first hints of a design so new, that it barely exists.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Switzerland. See ya all on the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless : '' For Inventions. ''

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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