The Winning Species

Clean Bike

How tough must it be for Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive and the other design-focused people at Apple to engage with everyday technology. Filling up their gas tank, getting cash from an ATM, using their car radio – all these involve interaction with often terribly designed pieces of technology. How will a gas pump’s user interface look like if Apple designed it? simpler. An ATM? cleaner. A car radio? beautiful.

Apple’s influence on product design is already significant, yet it’s reach has been very limited so far. Apple itself is not going to redesign every piece of technology or make their services available to others. Instead, the “Apple style” – simple, clean, and easy to use is going to gradually take over the desgin world. The reason: this style is so overwhelmingly better that by sheer evolutionary pressure it will inevitably propagate and win. This is a bold prediction as it deals with user experience in addition to the underlying technology. Unlike existing designs, this user experience style requires a substantial investment in design and manufacturing. Still, I believe that it will gradually push the old out.

The reason a strong player like Apple leads the way is simple – traditional design consultancy or in-house designers typically do what the customer wants: the customer being cost-conscious consumers or design-agnostic businesses. Apple is led by a fanatic, detail oriented, micro managing design bigot who makes all product decisions. This is not the case with any other major player I’m aware of. Small companies do innovate in this area, but only a few make an impact. One such company is Arc90 that created Readability, a program that turns messy web pages into readable articles. Arc90 did such a great  job that Apple integrated the open source version into Safari.

This better species had now reached a critical mass in the technology ecosystem and is rapidly eliminating inferior variants or transferring it’s genes to them. How long will it take for this superior species to kill off all the others? It might take a while, but the evolution is unstoppable.