is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Just some quick reactions to Apple’s finally announced wearables product.
As first sight, the look of the Apple Watch struck me as boxy and inelegant. Its vaguely space age-y curves seemed like the antithesis of what I personally favor in watch fashion, which is something more conservative. But I was surprised to find that the watch itself complemented its various flavors of watch bands pretty well; whether paired with a more traditional or a more sporty band, the essential design of the watch still made sense. That’s impressive.
I still have to reserve judgment on whether I personally like the design or not, though, as the thickness of the watch itself seems greater than I think I would like, at least in photos. The “crown” dial also seems optimized for utility and usability—not an inherently bad decision, but one that might make it less aesthetically desirable overall.
Finally, I feel somewhat vindicated by the three “curated” styles of Apple Watch—which basically map to everyday wear, athletic wear and luxury wear—as well as the wide variety of watch bands that the company will sell at launch. Their existence goes to points I’ve made about the fashion imperative for a successful wearable, and how different that is from creating products predicated primarily on technological innovation. Back in July, I argued that Apple bought Beats by Dr. Dre partly for their understanding of this problem, and I wrote this:
iWatch, if it exists, will need to be more of a fashionable good than Apple has ever created before; fashionable goods depend in part on variability in order to satisfy individualized consumer expression; and creating variability at scale is the key economic challenge of wearables.
There aren’t quite as many SKUs for the Apple Watch as there are, say, in the Nixon watches catalog, but there are far more variants on offer than for any Apple product that’s ever come before. And remember, this is a company that, at the onset of its comeback, prided itself on selling fewer things, on an almost flagrantly reductive product matrix.
This reflects, I think, Apple’s keen understanding that with this watch it has gotten itself into the business of fashionable goods. From today’s evidence, from the variety on display and the close attention apparently paid to the aesthetic, non-utilitarian aspects of the product, the company has seemingly made that necessary, decisive step towards thinking about the kind of products it makes in a substantially different way. Which is apt.+