When I was a kid, my dad had a book of record covers called “The Album Cover Album.” It was a big, glossy coffee table book of the classic LP covers from the 50s to the 70s.
My brothers and I spent hours copying the trippy Grateful Dead covers by artist Rick Griffin or making paper models of the San Francisco Victorians on Jefferson Airplane’s “After Bathing at Baxter’s.”
Growing up in Britain in the 70s, at the height of Two Tone and punk, everyone was music mad. Music was everywhere. It determined how we dressed (as punks), where we went (punk concerts) and who our friends were (other punks). Culture rotated around music.
These days, culture is defined not by music, but technology. The bull’s-eye logo of The Who has been replaced by the Angry Birds icon. The cover of “London Calling” is the cosmic wallpaper on your iPhone.
Apple’s iOS 7 is a big step forward in that evolution. Gone forever are the vestiges of interfaces of old; the skeuomorphic references to desktops, trashcans, leather and wood. iOS 7 is another step towards interfaces of the future. And with 500 million almost-overnight downloads, it’s going to be everywhere.
For me, one of the most interesting things about iOS 7 will be watching it bleed out into the wider culture. Just as the iPod launched a million gadgets in white plastic, iOS 7 will inspire countless website redesigns and scores of apps with minimalist interfaces. We’ll see lots more of that fashionably slim Helvetica Neue font and transparent tickers on TV shows.
Earlier this year I talked to Professor Andrew Hargadon, a design and innovation professor at University of California at Davis. Hargadon told me that when the iPod came out, it showed everyone what a good MP3 player should look like. Likewise with the iPhone. Everyone hated their cell phones before the iPhone. Not any more.
“Nowadays, we expect many things to have better designs,” he told me. “Because of Apple, we got to compare crappy portable computers versus really nice ones, crappy phones versus really nice ones. We saw a before-and-after effect. Not over a generation, but within a few years. Suddenly 600 million people had a phone that put to shame the phone they used to have. That is a design education at work within our culture.”
I’m hoping that iOS 7 will also be a design education. I’m hoping it’ll inspire new DVR menus and the telemetrics system in my car. I’m hoping it’ll inspire my kids to make paper models of their favorite app icons.
They’re already fans of The Clash.
Leander’s new book about Jony Ive and the Apple design studio is out in November.
“Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products” is available for pre-order on Amazon.