How do Apple's designs affect consumers?

Apple has always been a company known for design; not just design, but even the most loathing Apple hater will have to admit at some time that the company does make some pretty well thought out products. Robert Brunner over at Fast Company has written an interesting blog post about Apple's design, and how other companies attempt to replicate it, sometimes producing a bad result for the end user.

Brunner has said, "Here's the gist: Apple has been so successful in design, that to many people if something does not resemble an iPhone, iPod, MacBook, etc., it is not 'good design.' If it is not an uber-simple, highly-rationalized, single-buttoned, machined-from-a-solid-block-of aluminum thing, it can't be good, right? It's become a pretty common undertone in articles, reviews, blogs, and user commentary. Sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. But the overall message is there: If you don't do it like Apple, you are not practicing 'good design.' You'll notice that there is a fair number of companies that do try to copy Apple; though people could argue that they do not innovate in features, it would be hard to say that they don't produce ones that are dead simple to use, whilst looking good in the process.

TUAW raises an interesting question, though: "Has Apple's definition of good design skewed consumer perception?" Apple's generally successful design have, as mentioned, lead to other companies trying to follow suit; they have done their best to create simple, and beautiful devices or software. This has also carried over to the naming of products... you can certainly find a fair few products that begin with an "i" around the market now, that aren't just from Apple. Have the boys and girls over at Cupertino really changed customer perspective of good design, though? That it probably a matter of taste, really. Although, when a company can make a product that leads others to take hints from design and naming conventions, perhaps it's more of Apple changing business perspectives, not consumer ones. Apple's App Store has certainly lead to other companies creating their own iterations of the service; that is hard to deny.

Brunner references the quote, "Be yourself -- just be a good one." A product does not have to be simple and elegant in order for it to succeed. We're interested in hearing what you guys have to say... do you think Apple has changed the way products should look and feel, or are they irrelevant and others are at the forefront of usability?

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