Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fire Follows Function

You're looking at the power cord from the original MacBook from 2006.  This elegant design resulted in a short, which caused a small localized flame and a little smoke.  Luckily my wife quickly unplugged it, since she was home and not asleep or busy with a baby or doing any of the things people normally do when they're not expecting their computer equipment to burn their house down.

This connector is an illustration of code douchery.  The form followed aesthetics rather than function.  Ideals about good, elegant design were valued more than the time-tested clunky adapter.  Fire, rather than form, followed function.

Yet Apple sold a lot of these units and settled a class action lawsuit over this very issue.  Apple products are so damn beautiful, yet apparently so dangerous.  Apple got rich on beautiful yet objectively bad design (like burning your house down).  So what gives? Obviously a little code douchery helps the medicine go down.

An old friend told me that artists are often seduced by the image of being an artist rather than creating beautiful images.  So the creative process can diverge into a feedback loop.  Rather than being creative, a lot of creative people spend their creative energy on convincing others that they're creative.  Apple is creative, so Apple is for creative people like you.

I think Apple tapped into the neurosis of creative people.  They sold image rather utility and they got rich doing this for two reasons.  The first is that PC manufacturers and Microsoft are unable to do sexy; Apple is able to make and sell sexy.   The second is that Apple greatly improved the user experience through an operating system and UI, thus delivering on ephemeral appeal.  No buyer's regret.

Apple failed.  They almost burnt my house down.  They got rich by almost burning my house down.  Apple won.  Not everything is absolute, but absolutes might by an indicator of the code douche and Sith.

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