I’ve been seeing Apple ads on TV and just ran across this full page ad in USA Today, all touting “Designed by Apple in California.”
The ads are beautifully done, but I’m confused about what they mean. Are the ads trying to say that those of us outside of California don’t have any design chops? Maybe it means that Apple employees outside of CA are inferior to those in CA? Or is there some other message going on that I can’t seem to pick up because I don’t have the required decoder ring.
The most likely answer: It’s a confusing campaign, which must have been designed outside of CA.
My take: While my assessment of the ads above is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there are a few things to learn from Apple’s new campaign:
1. Design is in the eyes of the beholder. Advertisements (or anything else that is designed to be used by people) come to life in the minds of the people who interact with them. While things may seem clear and obvious in a conference room at headquarters, that does not mean they will be interpreted the same way in the field. Make sure to test your messages (or any design) with your target audience.
2. Apple may be in trouble. Apple has created some of the most game-changing digital consumer products ever. And it has succeeded in a large part due to wonderful design. Yes, Apple does have some superior design chops. But why is the company suddenly spending huge advertising dollars to tout these skills? Is the executive team worried that their new and upcoming products won’t communicate the high quality design of their past products? Is this an attempt to retain good designers in the company by reasserting Apple’s commitment to great design? I always worry when a company proclaims its skills instead of just demonstrating them.
3. There’s still a lot to learn from Apple. While I’m not impressed by the overall message of the ads, there’s a lot of insight in the subtext. Here’s the part that I really like:
This is it.
This is what matters.
The experience of a product.
How it makes someone feel.
When you start by imaging
What that might be like,
You step back.
Who will this help?
Will it make life better?
Does this deserve to exist?
If you are busy making everything,
How can you perfect anything?
The bottom line: Great design can change the world, even outside of CA