13th November 2016
27 Old Dumbarton Rd
Doughnuts for breakfast this week. Unusual to find a dedicated doughnut cafe, but the combination of pastry chef expertise and creativity delivers a tempting treat for any occasion.
In the wake of two Apple product releases this fall, there appears to be a certain theme to people’s comments regarding the revised models of both the iPhone and MacBook Pro. Although both releases received a lot of praise for innovative features and more beautiful industrial design, the aspect that tied the launches together appears to be the removal of features that people had become very accustomed to. Now that the dust has settled a little and forums have calmed down, I thought I would take the chance to give my thoughts on the area and look a little further into what it means for Apple.
When I hear someone mention their reservations regarding the removal of the headphone jack from the iPhone or the various ports from the MacBook Pro, the thing that always springs to mind - after reading books such as The Laws of Simplicity, The Design of Everyday Things or Living with Complexity - is that there is always this undeniable focus towards achieving simplicity through design. I believe we simply need to look at the idea of removal and consider whether or not it is good design.
John Maeda’s first Law of Simplicity does an excellent job of delivering a concise discussion on the topic. He talks about finding the balance between simplicity and complexity and how the process of achieving simplicity can ironically be extremely complex. As any designer knows deciding whether or not to remove something or finding an elegant method of doing so can be one of the hardest parts of the process. His example of a TV remote, which we often find contains an array of buttons of which the majority are rarely used, but still need to be there in case the user requires the function, illustrates the designer's dilemma. On the one hand, he or she should try to remove buttons to make the product easy to use; on the other hand they must ensure that it does everything that the user might want to do.
"The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction. When in doubt, just remove. But be careful what you remove."
Looking at the history of Apple, it can’t be denied that their success is partly down to their ability to be courageous and not be afraid to make radical changes to objects that people previously accepted as a way of life. The question now is whether or not they are innovating in the same way. One of the most historic changes that Apple incorporated was the interface on the 3rd generation iPod. They achieved extreme simplicity by taking what originally began as a scroll wheel, four function buttons and a selection button and transformed it into a single click-wheel. An appropriate relation to Maeda’s TV remote example and fulfilling the criteria of becoming as simple as possible without impeding the user experience. The removal of various ports from the new MacBook illustrates the difference in innovation when compared with the click-wheel. What originally began as a charging port, mini display port, USB, HDMI and SD Card Reader has been transformed into a single USB-C port. Similar in the sense that it has reduced the number of components to deliver the same functions but it has failed to maintain the functionality. The MacBook has experienced removals in the past, with the passing of the Ethernet Port, the Firewire 800 and the disc drive. But what made these losses more acceptable was the fact that they came at a time when people no longer had a majority need for them. A mid-2012 release MacBook almost provided you with the realisation “Wait, I don’t need a disc drive because I never actually use discs anymore”, whereas upon considering the new 2016 model you are maybe more likely to say to yourself “But I still need somewhere to plug my hard-drive”. There is no denying the fact that it is a huge engineering achievement to cram all these functions into a single port but it does feel as though Apple may have jumped the gun slightly and forced the USB-C upon us instead of supplying it to us when we need it most.
I feel that it is justified for a design team to do all they can to remove features and simplify a product as far as possible and the fan-boy within wants to agree with the removals they’ve made. But considering the loss of functionality and the fact that the removals have created more unnecessary products in the form of multi-port docks and lighting to headphone adapters, there is just something not right about these changes. I commend Apple on their pioneering spirit but feel as though the timing just wasn't quite right on this occasion.
The doughnuts sampled on this visit - peanut butter & jam, hibiscus & pistachio and chocolate hazelnut - didn’t disappoint. Nice and quiet in the shop this week as well, making it easy to spend a few hours resisting the temptation to head back to the counter for another. Complemented by Papercup Coffee, Tantrum maintain their reputation and continue to excite with a regularly changing selection. Anyone looking for something a little different should definitely take a trip down Old Dumbarton Road, or just pop in for a takeaway.