How Apple is Giving Design a Bad Name

Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini are pretty harsh on Apple’s post-iPhone UI design philosophy. They have been on this track for a long time and I do not agree with much they say, but they do have, a few, valid points.

We conclude by summarizing the statements in Apple’s current guidelines, statements that are correct and appropriate and that convey the proper design philosophy.

Deference. The UI (user interface) helps people understand and interact with the content, but never competes with it.

Clarity. Text is legible at every size, icons are precise and lucid, adornments are subtle and appropriate, and a sharpened focus on functionality motivates the design.

Depth. Visual layers and realistic motion impart vitality and heighten people’s delight and understanding.

As I pointed out in my Apple Maps in Japan review, the atrocious Apple Maps cartography is a perfect example for everything wrong with Apple UI design here: no deference, no clarity, no depth. A comparison screenshot shows it all:

Maps of Shinjuku. Apple (left), Google (center), Yahoo Japan (right)
Maps of Shinjuku. Apple (left), Google (center), Yahoo Japan (right)

In this case this is the result when the UI designers impose western typography assumptions on a language that requires different design choices.