Apple's design guru Jonathan Ive has spoken to Wired about the company's new Power Mac G5.
36-year-old, British-born Ive heads up Apple's industrial design team, and was recently named Designer of the Year by London's Design Museum.
Wired reports that Ive was only too delighted to describe the philosophy - and all the hard work - behind the design of the G5.
"I guess every time you do something, you feel particularly pleased with something you just developed," he said. "This one was really hard."
"There's an applied style of being minimal and simple, and then there's real simplicity," he said. "This looks simple, because it really is."
Huge challenge Ive traced his finger over the side of the case and across the top of the G5. One continuous piece of curved aluminium forms two-thirds of the case. A large section cut out of the top forms handles at the front and the back.
"By removing material here and here," Ive said, indicating the cut-out section, "it gives you a substantial part of the enclosure. To get aluminium at this size and to our cosmetic standards was a huge, huge challenge. The care that went into just the door was just extraordinary," he said. "Just check out the hardware we used. Look at the finish and the materials."
Like the curved outer case, the door is a single piece of metal. But it is more complex than it appears. Ive showed how the door's fastening mechanism grabbed the door from the inside with a system of three sliding latches. On the inner face of the door are instructions for adding more RAM to the machine. A half-dozen detailed, yet very clear, pictures explain the procedure, step-by-step.
Simplicity "We wanted to get rid of anything other than what was absolutely essential, but you don't see that effort," he said. "We kept going back to the beginning again and again. Do we need that part? Can we get it to perform the function of the other four parts? It became an exercise to reduce and reduce, but it makes it easier to build and easier for people to work with."
Ive moved on to the machine's complex cooling system. Nine computer-controlled fans cool the new machines. A clear plastic cover sits inside the side door. It is oddly shaped to help air circulate inside the G5. A purely functional component like this would have been paid little heed by the rest of the computer industry, Ive said. But it was made transparent so people could run their machines with the door off.
"People have disconnected (function) from cosmetics," he said, with a shake of his head.
Ive said the machines were surprisingly quiet. Putting his ear to the open case, he said he couldn't tell if the machine was on or off: "Given its power, to have it run as quietly as that, the thermal team did an exceptional job," he said.
At this point, the Apple PR rep asked for the interview to be wrapped up. In parting, Ive was asked to compare the G5 to high-design computers from the world of Windows PCs, such as those from Alienware or Falcon Northwest.
"It's really much more potent when you don't put on a veneer pretending to be powerful," he said. "I see (the G5) as a tool. It's an extremely powerful tool. There's not a plastic façade that adds to the fact that it's a really powerful tool. It's very, very obvious that it is what it is. From a designer's point of view, it's not an appearance game we're playing. It is very utilitarian. It's the use of material in a very minimalist way."