Two very newsworthy events in the design world happened this week – It was announced Marc Newson has joined the Apple design team, and the Apple Watch has finally been unveiled, with what looks to be obvious input from the Australian Industrial Designer and his unique style.
Marc Newson is one of the world’s most renowned designers. He has designed everything from furniture in his early career through to aeroplanes, cars, luggage, boats, interiors, clothing and watches. Recently he’s done a number of collaborations with Jonathan Ive, vice president of design at Apple, so perhaps it’s not a complete surprise that these two friends have joined forces in a more official manner. Marc Newson breathes that rarefied air where he has the creative freedom to apply his own retro-futuristic brand language to other peoples’ products, so the marriage between his output and Apple’s glacial mass-market modernism will be interesting to witness going forward. Will we see a thaw in that respect?
It appears the fruits of the collaboration have produced Apple’s first true body-worn device – the Apple Watch (were you expecting iWatch for its name?) Applying smart technology to watches has so far been problematic and hasn’t won the hearts and minds of consumers in any great numbers. This is no doubt because watches are more like fashion accessories than high-tech trinkets, reflecting peoples’ aspirations and identities over any desire to deliver functionality beyond that of a basic timepiece. Apple’s previous ‘one size fits all’ approach to design wouldn’t quite work for this sort of market, so to bring in Marc Newson’s experience in creating luxury and often bespoke products makes sense. From what I can glean from images on the Apple website, the watch has a more precious and jewel-like aesthetic than previous products. It will be available in two sizes with many strap / body variants, including an 18-carat gold version. The title on the website is ‘our most personal device yet,’ and it certainly looks to be the case. Apple have also recently recruited fashion and retail talent from the likes of Burberry and Yves Saint Laurent. The stage looks set for them to make wearable technology fashionable in a way we haven’t quite seen before, and I expect Apple Watch will breathe life into the smartwatch and wearables industry when it launches next year.
The real proof of the pudding for Apple Watch in terms of winning over potential customers will be the interface design and how usable it is when accessing features like activity tracking, calling / messaging and experiencing media. The devices’ dizzying array of capabilities are accessed through a tiny pressure-sensitive touch screen, a single side dial (the ‘digital crown’) and some clever use of haptic technology. I for one have no fears in this respect however – Apple have an enviable track record of coming to market late and rewriting the rule book by making technology work seamlessly for the end-user. There is something very familiar about this device, and I expect the user experience and learning curve to be as effortless as the iphone. At Cambridge Consultants we too understand the importance of integrating superb user experiences into connected devices. Check out our Appcessory toolkit, which acts as a guide to developing successful connected devices.
I’ve been on the lookout for a smartwatch for a while now, but haven’t felt inclined to take the plunge. However, I know what I’ll be buying next year. Now – do I go for a White Sport Band or the Stainless Steel Link Bracelet?