Apple devices have gradually simplified in appearance over time under designer Jony Ive, who joined the company in 1992, which is why they are so synonymous with minimalism. By 2002, the Apple desktop computer had evolved into a thin, flat screen mounted on an arm connected to a rounded base. Then, into the 2010s, the screen flattened even more and the base vanished until all that was left were two intersecting lines, one with a right angle for the base and another, straight, for the screen. It sometimes seems, as our machines become infinitely thinner and wider, that we will eventually control them by thought alone, because touch would be too dirty, too analogue.
The Guardian publishes an excerpt from a forthcoming book about minimalism; not the music, but the lifestyle. This excerpt covers two topics: Marie Kondo’s decluttering cult, and Apple’s design philosophy.
For the former, whose method is uncreatively called KonMarie, I like to say that you can’t spell KonMarie without “con.” For our minimal Marie has ventured into the sale of Goop-worthy useless objects, such as, for $75, a tuning fork a quartz crystal. “Marie uses a tuning fork in her everyday life to help her to reset – and she’s never without a crystal. Striking the fork against a crystal creates pure tones that are believed to help restore a sense of balance.”
As for Apple, yes, their products are minimalist, but I think that the approach that the millennial writer takes shows a bit of ignorance of the history of the design of computing devices, and of other electronic devices. Much of the minimalism in Apple devices is a result of miniaturization. We have thin devices because we can; because displays don’t need to be the massive, bulbous CRTs of yore. We have fewer buttons and knobs because we don’t need them. And, Jony Ive, at Apple, was following in the footsteps of his great influence Dieter Rams, whose ten principles for good design were Ive’s guide. Discussing Apple design without looking backward to the history of design, especially of electronic devices post-war, is useless.
The transistor radio I had when I was in my early teens was minimalist compared to radios that preceded it; the Walkman I had in 1980 was minimalist compared to boom boxes. The car I drive is minimalist compared to the fin-adorned Chevys of the 1950s. Minimalism in design is a long trend. What is different is that the word is used now to market devices (though I don’t ever recall hearing anyone at Apple utter that word), and perhaps that is just a recognition that the term has become mainstream.