The MacBook, iPhone, iPad and other Apple products are constantly praised and given awards for their sleek, modern design. But Newsweek's art and design writer, Blake Gopnik, wonders if Apple's designers really deserve all that praise. "There's more than a bit of standard retro chic to Apple's goods," Gopnik points out. "But giving it a prize in 2011 is like giving a rave to contemporary paintings that rehash Mondrian's grids." With its "streamlined form" and "crisp edges," he says, the iPad's design is less contemporary than it is a throwback to 1930s trains, toasters and Braun radios.
Gopnik offers yet another take on the significance of Apple's creations: "It may not be about the apotheosis of modernist design so much as its approaching disappearance." He quotes Droog co-founder Gijs Bakker who loves his iPhone because "it's barely there at all; you don't have to praise its look because it's so easy to ignore it. 'The form is almost nothing,' he says, and that lets the function take over completely." The iPad is no different, the author points out:
There's really nothing to say about the look and feel of an iPad. As an almost featureless slab, it is an object that seems too simple to be anything other than it is. Describing the "look" of the iPad is like describing the look of a sheet of glass. The iPad almost lets you leave the world of objects and jump straight into Web space. The paring down of the Air may be a first step toward escaping shape all together, which Apple then achieves in the iPad.
Gopnik concludes that the latest Apple products are anything but modern. Instead, he suggests, "they could be the first hints of a design so new, it barely exists."