Pop quiz: What do the original Mac, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, supersonic airplane Concorde, the Sony Walkman, and the Braun ET66 calculator have in common?
Give up? The answer is that they’re all cited as inspirations for designing the original iPhone back in 2007. The full list was recently shared by Imran Chaudhri, one of the software designers who helped create Apple’s breakthrough smartphone.
for iphone 1:
the original mac,
2001: a space odyssey,
sony walkman TPS-L2,
arthur c. clarke,
among others… https://t.co/F3ayC03T3y
— Imran Chaudhri (@imranchaudhri) February 3, 2019
Chaudri, who has now left Apple to co-found the startup Hu.ma.ne, gave his answer on Twitter after being posed the question by another user. Other references he gave as touchpoints include Italian designer Massimo Vignelli (misspelled “Vignale”), U.S. industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, the music band The Beatles, NASA, the English music label Warp, Polaroid, Arthur C. Clarke, and Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen.
The inspirations aren’t all obvious, of course. Interestingly, there are zero phones listed — which completely makes sense since Apple’s inspiration for making the iPhone was dissatisfaction at the devices already on the market. Other than that, it’s fun to imagine who contributed each inspiration. The Beatles were famously a love of Steve Jobs, while Braun and Warp Records seem like they’d belong more to Jony Ive.
What does come through with all of them, however, is a sense of futuristic, minimalist cool which absolutely translated to the iPhone. The sleek Concorde was instantly recognizable from its silhouette alone, and carried an air of ahead-of-its-time luxury. Similarly, NASA evokes the kind of space age utopia that Jobs grew up with (he would have been a teenager at the time of the first moon landing.)
Imran Chaudhri doesn’t pretend that these were the only inspirations for the iPhone, of course. He also includes the important phrase “among others.”
But, in the same way that Jobs used items like a luxury Bösendorfer piano and black and white photographic prints of the American West by Ansel Adams to inspire the original Mac team, so it seems did the iPhone team have a similar approach to inspiration.