Posts tagged: Design

Going for Gold

What I want

Let me start with a simple fact: I want the golden iPhone. I was depressed on launch day when, only 80th in line, I didn't get my new gold colored device. In fact, it was the first launch day I wasn't rewarded for waiting in line with a new iPhone. It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Even more bitter was the vocal minority on Twitter that began squeeling as if only someone that cared about showing off that they had the latest (or a belly dancing gypsy) would prefer the color of gold. Hmmm?

This isn't the first time I've had someone make fun of my iPhone color choice. I wanted the white iPhone 5. I knew it from the second I saw it. Gorgeous. We're still talking about a silly phone; but it really was the most beautiful silly phone I'd ever seen. Everyone mocked me:

You seriously got the white one?

Yes. I seriously ordered, and loved, the white one. Within a year, every one of my friends had told me they wished they had opted for white for one reason or another. The most common reason being the way the black bevel showed scuffs too easily.

We'll see what they say about gold. But I'm not holding my breath that they'll pine for a golden iPhone. It's all about fashion, and we often disagree about fashion:


What is the real reason

Guy in line: "No one is going to get the gold. There will be plenty."

Me: "Which color do you want?"

Gil: "Gold"

Me: "Everyone is going to get the golden iPhone."

Gil: "Everyone is bashing on it."

Me: "Ha. That 'everyone' is a minority."


17 year old brother: "Why is gold so popular? Because it's new?"

Me: "Which color do you want?" (He's ordering one today.)

17yob: "Gold."

Me: "Why do you want gold?" (My brother is very fashionable.)

17yob: "I think it looks the best. I like the golden ring around the home button. It's the coolest style."

Luxury and Fashion

The iPhone is a fashion accessory and Apple wants to be a luxury brand1. It seems to me that being fashion forward means pushing trends just a little too far. To be truly fashionable sometimes one needs to be a bit ostentatious. Going gold was certainly considered a bold (and awful) move by tech bloggers, because they saw it as too ostentatious. However, I don't thing gold is ostentatious today.

I asked my wife what she wanted for her birthday (coming up on Thursday). She wants a gold watch. Ashley is always dressed very conservatively. She doesn't wear flashy styles. So I was surprised at first to hear that she wanted something that sounded ostentatious.

It sounded ostentatious until I persused pinterest for example watches. Check it out and you'll see there has been a major influx of golden jewlery (i.e. watches, bracelets, earings, necklaces, and even purses). This is what is in style, it is what 'normal' people are going to choose for their wedding rings and everyday jewelry.

Platinum and silver have become commonplace. Everyone has silver or white-gold colored wedding rings, bracelets, and necklaces. The color doesn't look luxurious anymore. It doesn't look elite. Fashion is about standing out, and luxury is about standing above. Gold is the luxurious color. If you don't believe me, just go visit the strip in Las Vegas.

Newness isn't enough

If you're someone mocking me and my golden iPhone you probably don't wear the current fashions from broad market clothing designers (you may even mock them).

  • Rolled up skinny slacks or jeans
  • Sock-less boat shoes
  • Bright colored pants
  • Short shorts (prep-length)
  • Geek glasses with no prescription
  • A fedora

Some of you probably wear some and eschew others of those styles. Maybe you have prep-length shorts, but think fedoras are a joke.

This is not an extreme list. They are 'middle of the mall' styles. It's nothing you wouldn't see in a J-Crew order catalogue. For that matter, wouldn't you expect to see the golden iPhone (rather than the silver or space gray) in a J-Crew or Banana Republic catalogue? That's not a department store designer; that's a 'middle of the mall' clothing store.

I fully admint that for many customers the golden iPhone represents newness. If you want to show off that you have a new iPhone the best way is to purchase the gold colored version. You may want the newest phone. You may even want to show off that you have the newest phone. But if you aren't willing to take a step into forward in fashion, the newness probably isn't enough to make you buy an iPhone color with (you deem) no sense of style.

If you were thinking the golden iPhone is in-style and you'd like it for your device but you are resisting it because you don't want to be one of those people that are getting it because it's new, well that would just be silly.

Subtlety was important

Apple needs to sell a ton of iPhones2. They are in a business that is attempting to reach a broad market with a luxury brand. This means they need to be subtle while also being fashion forward. Being too ostentatious will simply turn off the majority of their customers.

The new iPhone 5s is actually more of a muted gold or 'champaigne' color. I know when the rumor mills were cranking the mockups were all a gaudy-dehydrated-urine yellow. If the actual gold iPhone were a deep-bronze color I wouldn't want it, and neither would (I believe) 80% of the people that are waiting an extra 2-3 weeks to get their new device.

The color matters and the style matters. Apple didn't release something out of style to which mindless sheep are flocking because it's new. Apple released something in-style to which millions are flocking because it's attractive.

The golden iPhone 5s was made for customers that do have a sense of style - the same sense of style as the iPhone 5s designers3.


  1. 1) If you don't think a $600 phone or $1000 laptop is luxurious you are in serious need of a broader world view. 

  2. 2) 9 million opening weekend will just about do it. 

  3. 3) Yes, I realize that I'm effectively claiming that I 'have a sense of style'. I'm assuming that you believe that you have a sense of style as well. If you think the golden iPhone is ugly we can assume, for better or worse, that the designers at Apple disagree with your sense of style. 

The best logos work on many stages

I got a couple comments after sharing the Athlon Sports article that ranked the best college football logos (the BYU Y is in the top 5). Andrew Madsen, for example, thought the current logo was utterly terrible.

I was reminded of this video by Will.i.am:

The current BYU logo is well described here. It looks great big, small, monochrome, and is very well known and recognizable. It's the type of logo we should be designing.

Salting Your Butter

People have expectations for your products. They want a unique taste. You can’t just give them normal butter.

I lived in Japan for a couple years as an LDS missionary. We had a family that we worked closely with that owned a restaurant; and they served amazing food. 

They served amazing food... like toast.

Toast at home isn’t amazing; in fact, it tastes like toast from home. I asked the owner what made his toast so good:

I salt the butter. People don’t want to eat the toast they eat at home. They expect a more savory and unique experience at a restaurant.

If you’re business is going to make toast, salt the butter.  Because people expect savory experiences from companies, you can’t get away with using regular butter. You don’t need a secret sauce, you just need to give your customer a flavorful experience. Look at apps like Instapaper, or Simplenote!  Look at products like the iPad or Moleskine! They don’t have a secret sauce, they just give you what you need with impecable taste.

Find the salt for your product’s butter.

Web Apps should add value

On the topic of webapps. Stop focusing on delivering content. Focus on adding value.

I met with a couple entrepreneurs this last week. These guys were great! They were motivated and tenacious; the kind of kids you want running companies you participate in.

They both software ideas that were about users getting content more conveniently via micro-desktop apps, and iPad apps.

Real powerful webapps like Instapaper, Mint.com and Digg don’t just give you content, they add value. Instapaper doesnt just bookmark, it strips out the crap, and saves the text on your device for offline consumption. Mint doesn’t save your transactions, I sorts, categorizes and graphs them (something Bank and Fidelity have failed to do). Digg doesn’t just tell you what’s on the web about some topic, it croud sources the valuation of web content within each realm.

I can’t say it better than this:

“The future of our industry now looks totally different than the past. It looks like a sheet of paper, and it’s called the iPad. It’s not about typing or clicking; it’s about touching. It’s not about text, or even animation, it’s about video. It’s not about a local disk, or even a desktop, it’s about the cloud. It’s not about pulling information; it’s about push. It’s not about repurposing old software, it’s about writing everything from scratch (because you want to take advantage of the awesome potential of the new computers and the new cloud—and because you have to reach this pinnacle). Finally, the industry is fun again.” - Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO

It’s a major paradigm shift. It’s about computing with content that is delivered exactly how the consumer needs it. It’s about working with the content in a way the consumer wants it, not in a way the developer sees fit to give it.

Old bottles can’t handle the new wine that’s coming.