A visual overview of Apple’s essential design principles


Apple design places a premium on simplicity in an effort to provide
Apple design places a premium on simplicity in an effort to provide "a delightful experience."
Photo: Andy McNally/Cult of Mac

Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines have been the core of the company’s design philosophy ever since the Macintosh in 1978. Apple design evangelist Mike Stern gave an overview of the ever-evolving guidelines during a Wednesday session at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference.

The session, entitled “Essential Design Principles,” is one of my favorites, in large part because I’m a designer myself. I’ve distilled the essential Apple design principles he talked about in the sketchnotes above.

Apple design: An emphasis on ‘human’

Apple choses “human interface” rather than the more frequently used term “user interface” for a reason. “Human” is the expression of our highest and most noble qualities.

Many of these Apple design principles might seem obvious, yet they often get neglected. We see this failure in apps that do not meet our expectations. The apps that ignore essential design principles are the ones that get used once and then deleted.

Apple wants to change that. The company increased the number of design sessions at WWDC this year, illustrating a deep commitment to helping developers create well-designed apps.

The Essential Design Principles session provided real-world experiences to reinforce the concepts discussed. The examples showed how decisions affect app design.

Well-designed apps create a delightful experience

Apps with simple workflows, clear interfaces and helpful information create a delightful experience.

The collection of Apple Human Interface Guidelines for all of the company’s operating systems (macOS, watchOS, iOS and tvOS) can be found on the Apple Developer website. You can download design resources for Adobe Photoshop and Sketch in Apple’s design resources section.


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