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Three Ideas for Apple Designers

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As our gadgets get impossibly slim, maybe it's time to take a step back.

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Rediscover "Pretty."

Apple products used to look less like weapons and more like toys. Two simple things have changed: Material and color. In college, I had the original MacBook, that elegant white marvel that was the best-selling laptop computer in recent memory and the most popular Macintosh ever. Did it have problems because it was made of a bunch of different pieces of plastic rather than one piece of aluminum? Sure, but it looked like what it was: Not just a tool but a companion, the perfect machine for college students who wanted to play as much as work.

If Apple wants to have another smash hit, it should look to its own iPod line for inspiration. The portable music players are now available in vibrant colors up and down the product line; that is to say, it's not just the low-end gadgets that come in color anymore. It's been too long since Apple stopped trying to be cute. If the company offers its next laptop in a variety of colors, it might rediscover some of that uniqueness, that small but crucial emotional connection to the user, which once was its hallmark.

Think Outside the Rectangle.

Apple's recent legal troubles with Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) have shown that committing all your design efforts to a single shape (a rectangle with rounded corners) is a problematic system. But again, Apple should look to its past for inspiration, and this time it should look back to 2002 and the iMac G4.

This machine, unlike the iMac G3 before it, blew the doors off our perception of what an all-in-one desktop computer should look like. A half-volleyball base with a slot-loading optical drive and a flat-panel display on a Luxo-Jr.-esque swiveling arm, the G4 (nicknamed "Sunflower" by the design team, which was evidently a bunch of awesome hippies) had an unbelievable personality. Compare that with today's iMacs, those sleek and sexy sports car computers that have power but no heart.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said, "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." My boundless love for The Little Prince aside, I have one small addendum: Apple should be careful that in the pursuit of that perfection, it does not remove the things about its products that caused many to fall in love with them in the first place. I would love to sit at an Apple Expo and - for the first time in years - have no idea what was about to happen on that big screen.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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