the Devil is in the Details: Apple’s User Interface

When I first read the readings for this week, I immediately thought of battery connections that I learned in junior school’s physics class. There are two battery connections, serial connection and parallel connection. In serial connection, there is only one current path so the current flows from the positive pole of to the negative pole. Therefore, if one part is damaged or disconnected, the entire circuit will be disconnected with no current, making everything stop working. Thus, in serial connection, everything is interconnected so either everything all works or all stops working. In a parallel connection, the current flowing from the positive pole is divided into two paths at the branch, and both path has current flowing. Therefore, even if one branch is disconnected or damaged, the other branch will still form a path with the main circuit. In this case, each branch is not interconnected and thus a modularity in the battery connection.

Now let’s look at my phone. I have an iPhone X and I purchased it two years ago and I have to say, this phone has served me very well. When it was first introduced by Apple three years ago, I was only intrigued by its evolutionary design and overall change, like the home button’s fingerprint sensor was replaced with Face ID plus all-glass design with super retina display. Yes, I got sold on this futuristic phone. Yet to my surprise, iPhone X’s user interface experience was even better. Every apple or iPhone fans might notice that all the iPhones and apple products share a highly unified design language and apple’s design details are always very amazing. For example, the Squircle. As seen blew, every apps and windows, from the first iPhone to the latest, share the same rounded rectangle designs. Especially with the coming of iPhone X, this design has been incorporated into the general shape and frame of iPhone X and all of the recent releases.

According to Clark and Baldwin, a good design needs to address information like, “architecture, interfaces and integration protocols and testing standards.” I think a good design should also be communicative. Let’s look at another example, iMessage. As you can see from this screenshot of mine, the background color of the text message bubble changes in depth – the earlier the message, the lighter the color.

When sending two or multiple messages in a row, the space between them is small and narrow (my screenshot). If there is an interval between messages, the upper and lower spacing of the text will become larger.

In my Apple’s interface experience, I saw various metaphors and hints, I saw the smooth experience brought by nonlinear animation, and I saw the process of carving details. This should be something that all designers continue to pursue, and what ultimately presents to users is an extra courteous experience.



Carliss Y. Baldwin and Kim B. Clark, Design Rules, Vol. 1: The Power of Modularity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000. Excerpts.