In my research today (and my ongoing quest to point out the commonalities in the brand and/or marketing strategy of great companies), I came across this article from the San Francisco Chronicle about Apple Packaging…
I’m going to go ahead and paste the whole article here, because I think it’s brilliant. The basic premise here is around the way Apple computer packages their products…. and why that matters. If you think it doesn’t, this might convince you. If you think it does, then you’ll smile all the way through this one.
Lick Me, I’m A Macintosh
What the hell is wrong with Apple that they still give a damn about design and packaging and “feel”? – By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist, Wednesday, October 1, 2003
“Oh right like you even care.
Like careful sexy product design even matters and as if you give a twit for packaging and aesthetics and user experience anymore in this overly plastic bloatedly excessive landfill wasteland Wal-Mart dystopia we call proud capitalist gimme gimme gimme America.
And OK maybe every now and then you sigh and give in and buy yourself a new tech gadget, because you’re just that kind of consumer lackey and not really expecting much anyway but who the hell cares it’s just one more hunk of tech landfill but what can you do.
And maybe you buy yourself, say, a new Apple PowerBook, as I just did, and it comes in this really quite beautiful sleek black box with small elegant typeface and gorgeous subtle graphics and a strange and obvious attention to detail and you think, pshaw, who cares, just another big heartless tech corporation trying to smooth talk me, just another suckass hunk of plastic and wire and metal to break down in a month and be obsolete in a year and really, why should I give a damn.
And yet. You can’t help but notice. Apple seemed to really put some serious work into this, into the details, the packaging, the shape and texture. The rich black box, the clean unobtrusive font, the silver sliver inch-wide side-shot photograph of the PowerBook itself on the box lid.
No screaming colors and no garish cartoon graphics and no massive corporate logo and no bullet-point exclamation points listing the outrageous features you’ll never use and you’re like, wait a minute, what they hell does Apple think they’re hawking here, art?
You can’t help but handle the package with something approaching astonishment and even a trace of reverence. Could this actually be something interesting and reasonably cool? Could this be something tactile and lovely and graceful that flies in the face of normal mediocre dumbed-down consumer design and tepid IKEA kit furniture and bland Windows chyme?
Could this be, in short, something that actually adds a modicum of refined grace and simplicity and aesthetic warmth to the world, instead of sucking it away like so many disposable DVD players and garish LED-spasming boom boxes and 10-gallon drums of spaghetti sauce from Costco? Nah.
And you open the gorgeous black box and lift the white cardboard inside flap, itself adorned with clean offset typeface declaring “Designed by Apple in California,” and you are confronted with what is quite possible the most thoughtfully designed and pleasing packaging you’ve ever seen, not like you care about this stuff and hey it’s all just Styrofoam and garbage anyway, but still.
Cables wrapped in elegant tight slots on the sides. Small manual and paperwork in the center. All clean and clear and meant for optimum visual and tactile experience. Lift out the top half of the foam and there’s the computer itself, solo, centered, encased in beautiful eminently touchable sleek aluminum, a subtle tech-fetish object par excellence, wrapped in delicate foam padding and not cluttered with crap and not requiring you to do anything but lift it out and peel back the sheath and stroke the silver metal and turn it on.
And there it is. The welcome screen. An exquisite downtempo chill soundtrack and the world “Welcome” swimming over the monitor in a number of different languages and you think, what the hell is this? Where’s the pain? Where’s the hassle and the misaligned factory molding and the broken keyboard and the 3,000 setup steps and the sense that I’m drowning in a sea of programmer jargon and plastic waste and ubergeek hell?
This is what Apple does. This is what they are known for and why their design team is so famous and why they win so many awards and why they engender such passionate devotion from their adherents and why Macs are still far, far superior to PCs and always will be. It’s true.
Apple actually cares about this sort of thing. Which is odd. Which is rare. Which is why they deserve gushing adulation now and then. They actually put the time and energy and labor into creating a gorgeous package most people will toss anyway, and why they include a first-time welcome experience, with subtle music, with flowing lush clean graphics, one that will never be repeated, just because.
This is the point. Detail and nuance and texture and a sense of how users actually feel, what makes them smile, what makes the experience worthy and positive and sensual instead of necessary and drab and evil.
These are the things that are nearly dead in our mass-consumer culture, things normally reserved for elitist niche markets and swanky boutiques and upscale yuppie Euro spas and maybe cool insider mags like I-D and Metropolis and dwell. They are most definitely not to be expected of mass-market gadget makers. This is why it matters. This is why it’s important.
Oh sure, Apple’s elitist. This is the common line. Sure they’re slightly more expensive and cater to artists and designers and creative types and people who actually care about such pointless stuff as fit and finish and “feel.”
And they command only a sliver of the PC market overall and despite how their designs and innovations resonate across the entire industry and in fact affect industrial design across all consumer culture, true PC/Windows geeks just scoff and snort and go back to trying to patch the latest of 13,876 “severe” or “drastic” security flaws in the nonintuitive bug-ridden hell that is Windows.
Look here, at the packaging for the iPod. You ain’t about to find this type of artistic approach in any sort of mass-consumer package design. Yes, it is one of the most expensive MP3 players on the market. Yes, it is by all accounts the best and most elegantly designed MP3 player on the market. And, yes, it is selling by the truckload. There are reasons for this.
Fewer and fewer manufacturers of consumer landfill crap give a damn for how consumers might actually, dare I say, care about the fit and finish of the products they decide to allow into their lives. And this is exactly the sort of nuanced stuff we so desperately need more of.
Is it just another goddamn overpriced radioactive instantly obsolete tech gadget they suck you into buying via sinister marketing and cloying ad copy and the sense that if you don’t buy one now you must be a Luddite dork? Sure. But then again, maybe, just maybe, if you look a little closer, it doesn’t always have to be. “