A recent article in the New York Times was about how Apple uses some Picasso lithographs to illustrate to their employees how simple design is created.

Simple – meaning no frills – design is the basis of the Apple design aesthetic. The simplicity aesthetic originated with Dieter Rams’ work with Braun.  It’s an aesthetic and design philosophy that I agree with and try to incorporate in my own work.

But whereas Ram’s work succeeds in delivering good design – design that is functional and aesthetically pleasing with no unnecessary elements – Apple (sometimes) fails. Apple takes minimalism too far, at the expense of function. They deliver “High Design” not “Good Design”.

This, from two commenters to the Times article:

“In general I really like Apple’s vision, but I think at times Form trumps Function in Apple Products. Having only 3 buttons means that one must often scroll through numerous menus to do even the simplest of things. I hardly call that “simplicity”. Their mouse is pretty, but a functional disaster. My biggest beef is Apple’s continued need to create special cords and accessories that don’t work with any other product, and often don’t work with other Apple products (so that they can charge you 10x the price for things). When traveling, we now need to bring TWO different Apple cords for our Apple products… and then one cord for everything else. Multiple cords and multiple inputs are not simplicity of form. One cord for everything is. Going forward, Apple must not only simplify its structural form, but also remember to simply the user experience. They are usually good at both but seem to be losing touch on the latter.”


“Apple has managed to create two of the worst mice of all time, the round “puck” version that went with early iMacs and the “Magic Mouse” pictured here. Both are ergonomic disasters, despite all the styling cues they may share with Pablo and his Bull. In terms of usability, Apple also resisted the scroll button for years, probably because they were miffed that they hadn’t thought of it first. And this is coming from a guy who is writing this on a MacBook Pro. Apple has had a lot of hits, but its misses somehow never seem to get mentioned….”

The point is that simplicity and aesthetic considerations can be taken too far. Once again, it’s an exercise in achieving the right balance.