If, like me, you are one of approximately 450 million people who purchased an iPod over the last 20 years, you may have been just a little bit sad (and perhaps nostalgic) on hearing the news this week that Apple has stopped producing the iPod — the pocket-sized music box that so dramatically changed the direction of consumer electronics and music industry.
The iPod was such an amazing piece of visual, technological and functional product design when it first launched in October 2001 — being able to hold up to 1000 songs, which seemed almost unbelievable at the time. Between 2001 and 2019, there were six generations of the original iPod, seven Nano generations, four Shuffles and seven generations of iPod Touch. It is also widely recognised as the catalyst for the creation of the iPhone.
Steve Jobs will always be the face of Apple, but under his leadership was Sir Jony Ives, who created the designs for many Apple products (including the iPod and iPad), and Tony Fadell, who is often credited as being the ‘father of the iPod and iPhone’.
By chance, I caught Tony Fadell giving his response to the news that the iPod was no longer going to be sold on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme (2:19:48 - 2:26:34) on Thursday morning.
“I’ve been in the technology business long enough to know that the march of technology never ends. At the end of the day though, for me, to know that the iPod is the cornerstone of Apple … that actually set up Apple to be the company it is today. The iPhone would have never existed without the iPod, and so to know that, and that it’s cemented in the history of Apple technology and consumer electronics, and in changing media and music consumption, to me that is a tremendous thing. Even though the iPod might have gone, it will never be forgotten.”
He also discussed his new book Build: An Unorthodox Guide To Making Things Worth Making (which I have subsequently added to my long list of books to read), and his theory that engineers need to start, not with the ‘how, how, how' of design but the ‘why, why, why’. Fadell stated that companies have tended to focus on the ‘what’, rather than the ‘why’: why do people need this?
Fadell went on to outline his Principles of Design:
1 Solve for people’s pain, not for a vitamin.
“A vitamin is a nice-to-have, but for pain, you need painkillers. How do you bring technology and service as a painkiller, instead of just a vitamin, [for something] that shows a real need?”
2 Design emotionally and rationally.
“It has to make a lot of sense, but it also has to be dramatic in a way that moves you … into something that you can now not live without — so that it is beautiful, it is something that you feel proud of, and it gives you a superpower and takes away the pain.”
Fadell went on to discuss what it was like working under the very driven Steve Jobs, and his thoughts on the Metaverse, and the need to regain control of the human connection. It makes for a very interesting listen. And if you want to hear more from Tony Fadell, check out the podcast from the BBC’s archive World Wide Web: The iPod (Jan 2020, 10:00 mins), where he talks with a teenager (not yet born when the iPod was first created) about what inspired his iconic creation, and how the design would go on to transform how we talk to each other with the launch of the iPhone.