I just entered “why consumers should care about design” into Google, excluding results about health care and what I stumbled over was not exactly what I was looking for, but interesting nonetheless. It was this article by The Guardian: Why do some people really hate Apple? The author writes:
Buying or using products that engage our emotions strongly will inevitably alienate those who don’t share those emotions – and just as strongly.
This may well be true. But the article doesn’t go on to ask why this is the case.
Many (but not all) people having used an Apple product for some amount of time fall in love with it one way or another. There is something catchy about those beautifully designed products. While touching and interacting with them they connect with something deep within us. And the longer you use your iPhone, carrying it with you every day wherever you go, the more personal your relation with the device becomes.
So why is it that people not using and not owning such a product react almost equally as strong in the opposite way? Why do some people hate Apple and all their products? Are they simply jealous? I don’t think it’s that simple. I think that when you buy a new Apple product your non-Apple-using friends feel similar to when they would see you falling in love with somebody they think is not good for you. That new flame who is only after your money, for example. They see you acting irrationally and falling prey to an evil force that persuades you of buying expensive products that aren’t any better than all the others. What they don’t see is all the joy you are having with your new love.
On a more rational note, do I think it makes sense to buy Apple products? An often voiced criticism is that they are expensive toys that actually can do less than their mundane counterparts. It is probably true that you can think of a few things that you cannot do or at least cannot do as easily with an Apple product as with that of another manufacturer (like moving your music files to your iPhone without using iTunes). But the things you want it to do 99.95% percent of the time it does splendidly on the other hand. By not incorporating some exotic features Apple is able to offer a very streamlined design with few distractions. It is intuitive and efficient to use, letting the user easily accomplish his goal without forcing him to think about all the technology that enables his experience.
But of course there are also those restrictions that do not only serve the simplicity of the product but are mostly there to increase Apple’s profit. And I hate those just as much as everybody else. But the sad truth is that at the moment there are no other computers or phones that are designed as well as Apple’s. And by design I don’t just mean that they look beautiful and stylish. By design I mean the process of the people creating the product pushing themselves to improve it again and again and again. Thinking carefully about the best solution, questioning every tiny detail – is it really necessary? – making the device from hardware to software as simple and enjoyable to use as humanly possible thus saving millions of people countless hours of frustration.
I think design is important. But so is open source and freedom. Right now, there is this trade-off and everybody has to choose for himself where to draw the line.