Apple has great design is the biggest myth in technology today. The latest victim of this ideology comes in the form a remarkable report on the late Steve Jobs’s final project, still in production: a new, $5 billion Cupertino headquarters for Apple Inc.
Writing for Reuters, Julia Love outlines the campus’s “astonishing attention to detail.” Vents and pipes remain obscured from reflection in the structure’s massive, curved-glass façade. Thick guidebooks regulate the usage of wood. Structural seams are held to a standards measuring a fraction of normal construction tolerances. Individual ceiling panels require multi-step approval. A door handle—the project’s first deliverable—is rejected for sub-nanometer imperfections. Even the empty spaces of thresholds are subjected to meticulous attention:
One of the most vexing features was the doorways, which Apple wanted to be perfectly flat, with no threshold. The construction team pushed back, but Apple held firm.
The rationale? If engineers had to adjust their gait while entering the building, they risked distraction from their work, according to a former construction manager.
Love compares Apple’s construction design process to that of its product design. The building is meant to be “as flawless as a hand-held device,” she writes, a process supposedly brought about by “treating the construction of the vast complex the same way they approach the design of pocket-sized electronics.”
The only problem with this conclusion: Apple has never accomplished sufficiently great design in its electronics to justify lionizing the pedantry of design at the new Apple campus.
* * *
At base, such a claim seems preposterous. In 1977, the Apple II made the microcomputer useful and affordable. In 1984, the Macintosh made the computer more usable by the everyperson thanks to the graphical user interface. In 2001, the iPod fit a music library in a pocket. In 2007, the iPhone made computing portable (and obsessive).