Even though most of us never even notice it, Apple has a fantastic history of sound design, from the ping of the text message to the decades-old powering up noise. That legacy runs through Apple's new era of product design too, right down to the sound of the new Apple Watch clicking open.
In an interesting interview with Jony Ive published by Vogue today, we get a glimpse behind the carefully-guarded white rooms frequented by Ive at One Infinite Loop. There are plenty of fascinating tidbits about Ive: For example, his insistence that design schools aren't preparing young designers with the most basic tools to become great design thinkers, like drawing and model-making skills. Or the fact that he's a great gift giver; he made a cigar-crazy friend a set of ashtrays out of iPhone materials.
We also get a tour of the Apple Watch itself from its primary designer. Ive spent three years on the project, and it shows. He talks animatedly about the low-level ways in which the Watch is designed to allow users to communicate — for example, the feature that lets you "see" a loved one's heartbeat. "This is a very big deal, I think," he says. "It's being able to communicate in a very gentle way."
Subtlety is the name of the game here. Right down to the finest details of the physical object, including the strap that allows the watch to latch and unlatch automatically. Ive waxes poetic about the noise it makes, clearly aware that such a tiny detail can make all the difference:
"You just press this button and it slides off, and that is just gorgeous," he was saying. He encouraged you to pause. "But listen as it closes," he said. "It makes this fantastic k-chit." He was nearly whispering. And when he said the word fantastic, he said it softly and slowly — "fan-tas-tic!" — as if he never wanted it to end. This is perhaps Ive's greatest achievement: not that we can get our email more readily, but that we can stop to notice a small, quiet connection.
We've still got months to wait before we'll be able to walk into a store and hear it for ourselves. But that's certainly a ringing — er, a k-chitting — endorsement. [Vogue]