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10 years of iCreate – the best of Apple design

A look back at some of the best examples of how Apple has pioneered great product design over its, and iCreate's, lifetime

Since the earliest days of Apple there has been an effort to match product design to usability. It’s perhaps the one defining quality of Apple as a company that has made its loyal consumer base so devoted and so keen to see what it does next. From the original Macintosh and its single-button mouse to the G3 Tower that gave easy access to the insides of typically challenging tower PCs, Apple has delivered great design.

As part of our tenth birthday celebrations this week, we’ve decided to pick out some of our favourite examples from iCreate’s lifetime, plus a few key moments that we couldn’t really go without mentioning.

iPod Click Wheel (2004)
As methods of control and interface go, this one is perhaps even more taken for granted than multi-touch. The wheel design of the original iPod in 2001 was revolutionary enough, simplifying the increasingly complex controls of music players up to that point into something deceptively clean. But that was just the beginning. The Click Wheel that placed the selection buttons under the wheel itself in the iPod mini took things to a new level. It made the face of the iPod even cleaner and marked a trajectory for Apple products to reduce the number of buttons to a bear minimum.

iPod nano (2005)
And as if by magic the iPod mini became the iPod nano and this really feels like the beginning of a new era in Apple product design to us. The high-contrast of the black and white bodies of these devices with their steel backs was stunning and would hold plenty of similarities to the iPhone models that would follow it. What’s more it was beautifully scaled and shaped for the hand. A satisfying weight and yet every bit the miniature iPod its name promised. Really one of the stand-out products of Apple’s last ten years.

iPhone (2007)
Only six years ago the first iPhone was launched, which is hard to believe when you consider how far it has come since then. Really the heart of the iPhone is its operating system, but the design of that first device shouldn’t be ignored. The two-tone back for instance may have been more about function than form (making sure the antenna for the phone could penetrate the shell of the device), but it really worked. The smooth lines and subtle curved have lived on. All of this was really an evolution of what had been explored with the iPod range, but it was the culmination of so much. And surely that final look had to have been an influence on how the iMac and MacBook range would begin to look.

Air_BlackMacBook Air (2008)
We’d be the first to admit there were issues with the first MacBook Air. As the most portable laptop ever it managed to set a new trend for thinner, lighter, and dare we say, even beautiful computers. However that was at the expense of a lot of key features (like any kind of high speed connections and only one USB port) and at great expense in terms of price point. A lack of optical drive seems like less of an issue today than it was in 2008 and even limited hard drive capacity is something we can excuse with the current state of cloud storage. On reflection the MacBook Air was just way ahead of its time and for a laptop that really needed to be your second computing option, rather than your first, it was asking a lot of money. But by George it was a looker.

White iPad mini on black with reflection
iPad mini (2012)
We’ve skipped ahead a little here. We don’t mean to diminish the iPhone 3, 4 or 5 and we certainly wouldn’t want to play down the design of the iPad and iPad 2, but there is something very special and forward-looking about the iPad mini to us. To hold one is to want one. Its weight is the first thing you notice – it feels great in your hand. It may be running iPad 2 tech, but in the condensed space the iPad mini it works a charm. Perhaps lessons were learnt from the MacBook Air in slimming down a successful design, but however it happened, the iPad mini seems to us to be the future of the iPad.

21.5" iMac (2012) with the older models behind on black with reflection.

iMac (2012)
Since the transition from the iMac G5 to the aluminium, Intel iMacs, the flagship desktop Apple computer, has continued to get better and better looking in our humble opinion. The pinnacle of this development was last year’s new iMac. The tapered, thin edges, the fantastic performance of the Fusion Drive, the fantastic colours on the screen all built in to one fantastic device. Perhaps the thin edges were a bit of a cheat since it has to bulge towards the middle to accommodate all its components, but somehow even that works. From every angle the 2012 iMac is a looker. As a sign of things to come, it is also a very exciting first step for Macs in the future.