Two Former Apple Employees Claim the Company has “Abandoned its Principles”

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Two designers who were previously employed by Apple have penned a scathing criticism of the company and its recent design choices, claiming that they have “abandoned their principles” and no longer place ease of use at the forefront of their design philosophy.

Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini wrote the lengthy piece for Co.Design, with the duo having previously worked in Apple’s design department. Norman worked for Apple Computer, as they were then known, from 1993 to 1996, while Tognazzini spent 14 years with them from 1978 to 1992. But while Apple has enjoyed much more success since they both left the company, with the likes of the iPod, iPhone and iPad having been developed by the tech giant following the designers’ respective departures, they are both hugely critical of the design choices made by their former employers, regardless of their popularity.

“Now, although the products are indeed even more beautiful than before, that beauty has come at a great price,” the pair write.”Gone are the fundamental principles of good design: discoverability, feedback, recovery, and so on. Instead, Apple has, in striving for beauty, created fonts that are so small or thin, coupled with low contrast, that they are difficult or impossible for many people with normal vision to read. We have obscure gestures that are beyond even the developer’s ability to remember. We have great features that most people don’t realize exist.”


The designers also discussed the philosophy adopted by the company prior to Steve Jobs’ return to the company in 1997, suggesting that the company’s design choices took a dive (in their opinion) after the late CEO took the helm again.

“We do know that before [Steve] Jobs returned, Apple had a three-pronged approach to product design: user experience, engineering, and marketing, with all three taking part in the design cycle from day one to when the product shipped,” the article continues. “Today’s Apple has eliminated the emphasis on making products understandable and usable, and instead has imposed a Bauhaus minimalist design ethic on its products.”

It has been suggested by many of the company’s critics that, while Steve Jobs propelled the company into a new generation, his death and the subsequent promotion of Tim Cook as CEO has seen the company lose their way. While Jobs was an overseer of multiple innovations across many of Apple’s product lines, many critics of the post-Jobs Apple have labelled their efforts as being derivative of the company’s illustrious past. Despite this, the company has gone from strength to strength financially, recording huge sales for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s, along with launching their first wearable in the form of the surprisingly successful Apple Watch.

While Norman and Tognazzini may have some valid points regarding the company’s current design ethos, there’s no denying that people are lapping up the devices that Apple are releasing, and this doesn’t happen as a result of launching products blighted by poor design choices. Still, it’s interesting to read criticisms from those who worked with Apple prior to them becoming the global powerhouses they now are.



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