Marc Newson on iPhone: 'God is in the detail'

Iconic Australian designer Marc Newson told CNET that when it comes to the iPhone, designers understand the difference immediately, while "Mr and Mrs Average" don't.

In conversation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales today, iconic Australian designer Marc Newson told CNET that when it comes to the iPhone, designers understand the difference immediately, while "Mr and Mrs Average" don't.

Marc Newson, CBE: "The better something is made, the less noise it makes." (Credit: Seamus Byrne/CNET)

Marc Newson is one of Australia's leading industrial designers, shooting to fame in 1986 with his Lockheed Lounge and Embryo Chair "biomorphic" designs. One of the three Lockheed Lounge chairs set a first for industrial design when it auctioned for over £1,000,000 in 2009. He was awarded the honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 New Years Honours for services to design.

Appearing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Friday, in conversation to coincide with the launch of a Taschen book on his life's work, Newson offered CNET his thoughts on today's iPhone launch.

In response to the question of why some people feel such a passion for the product, while others are adamant that there is nothing special about it, Newson felt the answer was simple.

"I think people just get it or they don't get it, really. If you are a designer, you understand immediately the difference. God is in the detail. But 'Mr or Mrs Average' unfortunately won't get it."

"But, really, hats off to Apple. They have the confidence that there is a significant enough difference in that product. And there really is. I can guarantee that it is really significantly different, and the difference for me really is quantifiable," said Newson. "I know how the thing is built. I know how it is made. There are not many things out there that are constructed in the way [the iPhone] is constructed."

"The trouble is, the better something is made, the less noise it makes. The less people understand. The simpler something is, the more complex it is," said Newson.

"Not many people understand about tolerance, for example. What it means. The kinds of tolerances; or the gaps, in other words. When you compare that to another product, for me it is a world of difference. It's kind of like comparing a Skoda to a Rolls Royce. Maybe that's not a good example. But, you know, to a very cheap car."

"Any designer cannot but respect what Apple has done, and the influence they have had on our lives."

Earlier, in the on stage discussion, Newson alluded to his support for Apple in their copyright battles with Samsung, having faced his own battles to stop others copying his work.

When asked whether Apple was a company resurrected through design, Newson had no hesitation.

"Completely. 100 per cent. That is, ultimately, kind of the power of design. The proof is there. It goes beyond design; of course, user interface, software and things like that. But certainly, design has played a big part in the reinvention of that brand. And it is now far and away the most valuable company in the world. Like an order of magnitude. And it's extraordinary. That's design."

 

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