I bought my first computer back in 1984. It was one of the first models of, the iconic today, ZX Spectrum. A home computer that probably launched the revolution of personal computing in Europe (along with other memorable brands like Commodore, Amstrad, BBC and a few others).
Across the Atlantic, Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniac were already disrupting the industry for about a decade, and had significant success with Apple II series. (An Apple IIc was actually my second computer). IBM and Microsoft responded with the launch of the first IBM PC in 1981, which soon became a standard. Mac made its debut almost exactly 30 years ago (January 25th, 1984) and soon became one of the most loved technology apparatus out there. It didn’t have users, it had fans and devotees. It was appealing, easy to use, elegant, beautiful. It was loveable. This is still the case for all Apple products.
The history of those early days of home and personal computing is well documented and an abundance of articles, photographs and various footage is out there waiting for you to explore it. PCs and Windows became a standard and Apple ousted its founder and visionaire. Computing industry had not yet realised that technology should not only be practical but also elegant and beautiful. For years and years the design of PCs was ranging from disgusting to just bearable. Unimaginative white boxes, huge CRT screens and keyboards that occupied the whole desk. It took the industry at least another 10-15 years and the resurrection of Apple by Steve Jobs, to understand that design DOES matter.
“Technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.”(Read the whole piece here). Steve Jobs got it right from the first time. It just took him some time and the enormous success of the iphone and ipad to convince the rest of the big players in the industry. A recent issue of FastCompany (Oct 2013) is devoted to the power of design and the transformations it sparkled all over the world, across all industries: from politics with the Obama presidential campaign, to urban structure with New York’s City Line.
Europe has a long and successful history in industrial, graphic and fashion design. Don’t forget brands like brown, B&O, Faber Castell and IKEA to name but a few and of course the distinctive European designs of automotive industry. Design is something that Europe understands. Nevertheless design is not only about objects or products. It’s even about services. Richard Branson seems to understand that in his latest endeavours with Virgin Money.
It’s time to give to design the attention it deserves. Not only when we discuss our company’s logo or the revamp of our outdated web site, but in everyday life: in our office spaces, in our internal documents, in our deliverables, in our emails, communications, even in our language.
(1) European Commission understands the importance of European Design and launched a number of initiatives.A few months ago, the Commission published a Staff Working Document “Implementing an Action Plan for Design-Driven Innovation“.
(3) Read about NEST and Toni Fadell in “The Increasing Importance of Design for a Meaningful Technology Experience” from a recent GigaOM conference.