It’s difficult to plot the exact moment in time when the Airpods went from tech accessories to a fashion statement and status symbol. The ridicule was replaced by mass-acceptance so fast it’s almost impossible to know when or how it happened, but the Airpods successfully managed to become the Apple-user’s fashion statement. Ayush Singh Patel’s OnePlus Bullet truly wireless earphones attempt something similar for the Asian brand.
Rather than be confined in a case, where they hide from view, these conceptual earphones sit around your neck, magnetically attached to a chain, giving the earbuds a more fashion-forward approach in a rather direct sense (almost looking like pendants or dog-tags). Each earphone comes with its own sleeve that covers the silicone tip, preventing it from falling off or worse, getting dirty… and while the earphones don’t charge while they sit on the neck-chain, they do something else. Act as an intersection between tech and ornamentation, making them perhaps the most ultimate tech-fashion statement ever!
Your chest is basically an acoustic chamber. If you’ve ever been to a concert and you felt your chest thump along with the kick of a drum, it’s because your thoracic cavity is reverberating with the music. Given that your lungs are always filled with air, your torso is just an acoustic chamber that literally thumps to the loud music you’re listening to, increasing your feelings of euphoria and enjoyment… and while that feeling isn’t quite possible with headphone-based audio (since the audio goes directly into your ears instead of passing through your body), BassMe fills in that gap.
BassMe is a wearable subwoofer that rests conveniently on your shoulder, with the audio-element sitting against your rib-cage. Designed to be worn with headphones or even with a VR kit, BassMe helps you feel the audio, rather than just listen to it. Using state-of-the-art sound-wave and vibration technology, BassMe delivers rich low-end frequencies to you, widening the range of frequencies you experience while listening to music or to any sort of audio. It complements your audio with zero lag, and delivers sound so efficiently that users are often compelled to reduce the volume on their headsets just because they can already hear so well. Made for being worn while listening to music, watching movies, or playing games, BassMe gives you the effect of having a powerful hi-fi speaker unit near you, so the music feels pumpier, movies seem more immersive, and those gunshots and car engines in your games really feel believable!
With Sir Jonathan Ive’s exit from Apple just days ago, it’s finally the end of an era that Steve Jobs envisioned back in the 90s. Ive left his design agency Tangerine to formally Apple in 1992, recruited by Jon Rubinstein at the time. It wasn’t until 1996, when Steve Jobs made a return to Apple (an almost-bankrupt company at the time), when Jonathan Ive’s career really took off. Along with Ive’s eye for design, and Jobs’ attention to need, detail, and usability, the two formed one of the most successful creative alliances in recent history, taking the company to a valuation of $665 billion in 2011, around the time of Jobs’ demise, and finally to the trillion dollar mark in 2018.
Ive’s journey at Apple can be distinctly broken down into these phases, that roughly fall into the decades too. We’re here to look at the work of Jobs through the lens of time, as he went from product to product and strength to strength with each passing decade. The video above provides a very rare look into Ive’s and Apple’s elusive design process, while the products below aim to codify and categorize Ive’s 27-year-long design journey with one of the most innovative companies on earth. Here’s a look at Jonathan Ive’s 27 years at Apple, in products.
1992-96 Jonathan Ive leaves Tangerine for Apple. Steve Jobs hasn’t made his comeback yet.
There honestly isn’t much to look at here. This was pre-Jobs comeback, when Apple was facing financial difficulties. Ive made his way from Tangerine to Apple, only to realize that most of the design team was being let go of. Rumor has it, he almost tried to quit around the same time, but was pep-talked into staying by Jon Rubinstein. Ive, under Apple, designed a few not-so-successful products at the time… like the Newton MessagePad, shown above. However, his experimentation with transparency (top right) led to a few breakthroughs later when Steve made a comeback.
1997-2011 Apple’s renaissance period under Jobs and Ive. Apple Design follows Dieter Rams.
Design flourished when Steve Jobs made a comeback in 1996. The iMac G3 and the iBook explored curves, and the use of transparency and translucency. Jobs was adamant that the insides of the computers be beautiful enough to showcase to the world, rather than make more white boxes. Ive’s design efforts went into making ‘computers sexy again’.
Ive’s obsession with transparency evolved further, while products that were previously curved, started taking on a more slick appearance. Shown above are the Apple Cinema Display, the iMac G4, and a rare non-Apple product, Harman Kardon’s Soundsticks that were designed by Ive!
Nothing put Apple more on the map than the iPod. It revolutionized everything, and truly made Jobs stand out as a visionary, and cemented Ive’s role in the company. The iPod also owed a big debt of gratitude to Dieter Rams, who’s design language at Braun truly began influencing Ive’s work. The circular jogdial, the no-nonsense design, the philosophy of “Form Following Function”, and the liberal use of white, all were owed to Dieter Rams. While naysayers saw this as Apple ‘not being original enough’, iPods flew off the shelves, and Apple finally became a household name.
As iPods grew popular, Ive strived hard to make them sleeker too. As a result, the Nano and the Shuffle were born. With an iPod for everyone, these came in a variety of formats, stored as many as 2000 songs, and now came in color! Another subtle innovation was that Ive discovered the material that would change the consumer tech industry forever… aluminium.
Aluminum allowed Ive to truly explore Apple’s new aesthetic of beautiful, premium, and sleek products. Aluminum was abundant, could be machined to precision, and Ive even devised a way of utilizing spare aluminum parts from the Mac Pro to make the MacBook bodies (discussed in Gary Hustwit’s Objectified). Ive pushed the limits to how beautifully sleek products could be made, and in 2008, Steve Jobs walked out on stage with a Manila envelope, carrying the world’s thinnest laptop within it… the iconic 19.4mm MacBook Air!
One more thing… arguably the three most important words in Apple’s history. The iPhone is considered to be Jobs and Ive’s magnum opus. So much is owed to the birth of the iPhone. Industries, companies, technologies, materials, the iPhone created them all. The first iPhone, introduced in 2007 was the first true smartphone. It came with a touchscreen you could use with your fingers, and boasted of Apple’s iOS and the birth of the app marketplace. Further iterations only grew better. The iPhone 4 came with a glass front and back, but a slick aluminum frame that made it one of the thinnest phones of its time. It was the perfect size (some still believe so even today) and had Siri, Apple’s voice AI. In 2012 came the iPhone 5, a reiteration of its successful predecessor, with a standard-setting aluminum unibody, a revolutionary 16:9 display, and the world’s first fingerprint sensor on a phone. The iPhone 5 was considered to be the last iPhone co-created by Jobs and Ive.
The iPad debuted in 2010, just a year before Jobs’ demise. Ive designed it to be the sleekest tablet on the market, following the footsteps of the iPhone and the MacBook Air, although the idea for the iPad came to Jobs much before the iPhone. Jony developed a device so iconic that it remained the only strong contender in the tablet market with practically no competition for roughly seven years.
2012-19 Apple finding its post-Jobs identity, & becoming a trillion dollar company.
The 2013 Mac Pro came at a time of uncertainty. Two years since the death of Jobs, Apple was looking for its next great product. The iPhone and the iPad proved to show how great Jobs was at envisioning new products. Apple hoped a redesigned Mac Pro would show people that Apple was still capable of innovation. Jonathan Ive’s redesign didn’t receive much praise, and was often referred to as the trashcan Mac, for its dustbin-shaped appearance. For the people that bought it too, the Mac Pro had quite a few problems, ranging from its heat issues, to the fact that it wasn’t easy to upgrade… a pretty necessary feature considering how much the 2013 Mac Pro cost.
The following year was one of redemption. Apple’s recent recruitments to the design team included designer Mark Newson and CEO of Yves Saunt Laurent, Paul Deneve. These two stalwarts aided Ive in building consumer electronics that were comparable to fashion items, with their sheer sense of style (and even a price tag to match). The Apple Watch was born, kicking off a wearables market. It featured a small screen, a touch-sensitive UI and a rotating crown, all encased in a remarkable aluminum body. The watch came with wireless charging, and featured a built-in heart-rate sensor… a feature that would soon define the Watch’s use-case. As a consumer-friendly medical wearable.
Among other noteworthy design achievements, Apple acquired Beats by Dre., a company that considered Robert Brunner’s Ammunition as their design partners (Brunner was an ex-Apple design lead). Alongside that, Ive’s team even designed the iPhone 6, a smartphone with an incredibly slick design that received mixed reviews, while also being one of the most sold smartphones in the world. Ive’s obsession with slim devices finally led to what became the Bendgate. The iPhone 6 was so thin, it would bend if kept in your back pocket. Apple eventually fixed the problem in the iPhone 6S with a stronger chassis and a harder aluminum alloy. The 6S also gave birth to the era of Rose Gold, a color that Apple debuted in 2015 which became a standard in almost all subsequent iPhones and even in the new MacBook Air.
Later in 2016, Apple announced the iPhone 7, which infamously ditched the headphone jack. The absence of a 3.5mm jack on the phone meant the release of the Airpods, Apple’s incredibly small truly wireless intelligent earbuds. Perhaps not the most consumer-friendly decision, the Airpods were a runaway business success. The Airpods were convenient, incredibly well-paired with the iPhone, and came with touch-sensitive surfaces that let you control playback as well as the iPhone’s core features without taking your phone out. The Airpods were sleek, well-built, and came with their own charging case that you could carry around with you. 2016 was also the year Apple killed ports on the MacBook, leaving just a USB Type-C port and a headphone jack (a strange decision there) on the side. The 2016 MacBook also ended the tradition of having glowing Apple logos on MacBooks.
2017 saw the release of the HomePod, Apple’s foray into the smart-speaker market. Ive pretty much revived the cylindrical design (of the Mac Pro) to create a powerful speaker capable of throwing out high-fidelity sound in all directions with equal intensity. The smart-speaker featured a touch-sensitive upper surface, and could respond to “Hey Siri”. Available in white and black, the HomePod came perhaps too late, with Amazon beating Apple to the smart-speaker market by three whole years.
Towards the end of 2017, Apple announced the AirPower, a tray capable of charging all of Apple’s wireless devices… simultaneously. The announcement was perhaps a little premature, considering two large things. A. The Airpods didn’t charge wirelessly, and B. The technology wasn’t perfected yet. Ive’s design showed how easy it was to lay your products on the AirPower mat and have them charge, but Apple’s engineering team couldn’t get it to work without heating up tremendously. The AirPower was finally shelved in 2019.
2017 also marked a full decade since the launch of Apple’s greatest product ever, the iPhone. Alongside the iPhone 8 (which was due at the time), Ive designed the anniversary iPhone, titled the iPhone X. With a stellar dual-lens camera capable of clicking portrait images with computational blurring, the iPhone X actually sold more than the 8, even with its $999 price tag… and its notch! The notch became a standard detail for almost all other smartphones to follow, as Ive’s vision for a truly bezel-less smartphone became more and more possible. It also meant saying goodbye to the good old TouchID and hello to Apple’s new FaceID, its revolutionary facial recognition system. The new iPhone was also a departure of sorts from Ive’s love for aluminium, since the metal wouldn’t support wireless charging.
The 2018 iPad Pro was the tablet every creative professional needed. With an incredibly powerful processor (as powerful as the Xbox One), a great camera, a redesigned stylus (that charged wirelessly), and virtually no bezels, the iPad Pro became a standard for the creative industry. It also came with a Type-C port, showing users exactly how versatile the tablet was designed to be, as it could be connected to pretty much any other device, and not be inhibited by Apple’s lightning charger.
As Apple’s hardware sales slowed down (nobody wanted to buy a new iPhone every year), the company finally made a pivot to services. The Apple Card was one of them. Machined out of titanium, the card was an exercise in sheer minimalism, thanks to Ive and the design team. it came with a machined Apple logo, and an etched name on the card… that’s it!
Ive’s last product at Apple, the Mac Pro sent quite a few mixed messages. At the time of his death, Jobs made it clear that Ive’s work was not to be interfered with, and he was answerable to no one. The Mac Pro 2019 was proof of Ive’s free reign. It came with a dual-machined airway system that gave the Mac Pro an appearance of a glorified cheese-grater, with an incredibly hefty price-tag. Apple’s trillion-dollar valuation, and Ive’s ability to design without any constraints resulted in one of the most talked about designs of the year so far… that’s until Ive finally put in his resignation along with Marc Newson to form LoveFrom, an independent design outfit that considered Apple as one of its top clients. Let’s see what the 2019 Apple October event has in store for us!
Spotify has been snatching up companies left and right. One of the odder acquisitions was Soundtrap, an online music production tool. It just didn't really seem to fit with the rest of the company's moves. With Soundtrap for Storytellers, though, thi...
“Big Sound for Music’s Tiny Fans” is perhaps the best way to describe the JBL Jr Pop, a conceptual speaker created by Shenzhen-based Kim Hyojin.
A winner of both the Red Dot Design Concept Award and the iF Design Award for the year 2019, the JBL Jr Pop is a junior speaker, designed to be child-friendly, and give children their dedicated music-listening device. The Jr Pop is small, light, rugged, and comes with a leash that the child can use to carry their sound with them. A comforting ring of light around the speaker gives it a halo, illuminating the branding, and captivating the child with dancing light visuals as they listen to music.
The Jr Pop is loosely based on the JBL Clip speaker design, sans the carabiner clip. It pairs via Bluetooth, probably to the family iPad or to a parent’s smartphone, playing music for the child, and is designed to give them the joy of having a personal musical experience, powered by JBL’s remarkable audio technology!
There’s a higher likelihood of your headphone having a 3.5mm jack than your phone having a 3.5mm input… but don’t ditch your headphones for wireless ones yet! It’s exactly what these large corporations want! To have you adopt standards that help them further their vision. Your wired set of headphones are more than capable of being your primary headphones, the only hurdle is turning them wireless. The AirMod by Bolle & Raven helps that happen. Designed here for the Bose QuietComfort QC25 headphones, the AirMod just conveniently plugs into your headphone where the aux cable wood, and turns them, with a simple touch of a button, into wireless-enabled headphones. The AirMod is quite literally a Bluetooth receiver, catching audio from your phone or playback device and playing it through on your headphones.
Designed to fit snugly around the profile of the earpiece, the AirMod sits on your headphone pretty innocuously, without gathering much attention. It delivers up to 7 hours of constant playback on a single charge, and features a built-in mic and controls to make switching from phone calls to music a breeze. The AirMod currently comes in three variants, for the Bose QC15, QC25, and the Beats Solo 2, and are designed to exactly fit the profile of these headphones, but maybe Bolle & Raven will release more variants with time! After all, isn’t it better spending a quick buck to make your great headphones wireless than to burn a hole in your pocket trying to buy a good wireless headset??
After a little over 70 years, Vitra is doing a special reissue of Ray and Charles Eames’ iconic radio design, but bringing it back with a slight modern twist. The Eames Radio, if you look at it, looks quite like the icon of a radio. It’s perhaps the most natural design ever, featuring a use of geometry, proportion, and just pure sense, to make something so clear and so beautiful, it looks stunning even after 70 years. Vitra’s reissue takes that design and puts a modern spin on it. The radio still comes with a molded plywood exterior, an antenna, and a matrix of circular holes that serve as the speaker grille. It still comes with two rotary knobs, but also packs four extra control buttons and an LCD display that’s equally vintage and modern. With the Eames signature on the bottom left, the Vitra Eames Radio pays tribute to an icon of product design, created by two of product design’s most revered names. In honor of how special the original design is, Vitra is limiting their production/reissue to just 999 pieces.
While plastic waste, to a certain degree, can be recycled, it’s just a small percentage of the total waste out there. Certain polymers grow past their ability to be recycled because of additives, impurities, stickers, prints, etc. and this is the plastic that causes the biggest problem because it just can’t be recycled.
Brighton-based design studio Gomi is trying to be a part of the solution. The Gomi speaker, designed by the studio, uses these unrecyclable plastics as its primary raw material, turning as many as a 100 plastic bags into a blockish speaker that churns out music and looks spectacular while doing so. The speaker’s block comprises three separate parts or modules that can be easily separated and melted down to form new parts when imperfectly formed or when discarded. Its simple blockish shape enables this, and also forms a brilliant canvas for the beautiful marbled effect of the colored plastics that interact with each other. Gomi’s raw materials and hand-crafted marbling ensure that no two speakers look the same, making them bespoke and one-of-a-kind.
Designed to be a great speaker too, Gomi partnered with electronic engineers and audio professionals to hone the sound of the speaker, and even used recycled denim for acoustic insulation! Plus, in a bid to make sure that the Gomi lives up to its purpose of being a speaker that champions a cradle-to-cradle approach, the company is even offering free repairs for their products and devising a system where customers can return products to be recycled.
Probably the only thing missing from Apple’s product roster is a pair of over-the-ear headphones. Apple has already developed and seen a fair share of success in the Airpods, and the Homepod (although the Homepod’s acceptance has been slightly underwhelming). The two products are immaculately engineered, and feature Apple’s very own Voice AI, Siri. The Airpods work with the iPhone, while the Homepod works independently, like all smart speakers. There is, however, a puzzle piece missing. The Airpods are a champion of portability but aren’t a hi-fi audio solution, and the Homepod boasts of a sound quality that Apple claims is unmatchable, but it isn’t portable… the most obvious bridge between the two would be a pair of professional-grade, studio-quality wireless smart headphones.
The designers at CURVED/Labs imagined what this bridge would look like. Taking very strong design cues from the Homepod, these smart headphones boast of large audio drivers that deliver spectacular sound, along with a touch-sensitive panel that lets you tap and swipe to access the headphone’s smart features. The headphones even pay tribute to the Homepod with the colored waveform-graphic found on the Homepod’s touch-panel, and the faux-weave texture around it. I imagine the headphones also pack noise-canceling, as is expected with high-quality audio products, and from the looks of it, these concept headphones even come with a neat wireless charging dock/hanger. The Airpods do work with Android phones, so it’s safe to imagine that these headphones would too, but just like the Airpods, functionality would be extremely limited, and the touch panel wouldn’t be of much use.
Although there’s no word on what one would call these conceptual headphones, the chaps at Gear Patrol quite aptly point out that the suffix ‘Pod’ is synonymous with all of Apple’s audio products, so our best guess would be something on the lines of Apple Studiopod, or Airpod XL, or my personal favorite, the Airpod Pro!
A smart speaker with Bluetooth capabilities, the Eclipse Zero Sound is a very aesthetically design device. Although we are not sure about the specs, the design aspect of the speakers is up for discussion here. Much like a hollow pillow, the ring of speakers helps with the acoustics. I use a Bose Soundlink Revolve + and its tower – lantern shape with a special carry-handle, makes it kinds kitsch. So when I compare the Eclipse Zero Sound as an alternative, I think the square-ring will probably belt out better sounding music towards you. I also like the fact that you can hang the Eclipse Zero Sound on the wall, or put it on a stand. This makes it versatile in placement and portable.