August 26, 2013

"Designed by Doofuses in California."

"Apple’s new ads make the company look lame."

Yes. And let me add: The slogan "Designed by Apple in California" is designed to keep us from thinking about how these things are not manufactured in California or anywhere else in America. You're not supposed to think of any possible suffering that has taken place making this things. You're supposed to imagine — ♫ imagine there's no factories, I wonder if you can — that these nifty items sprang fully formed from the minds of Californians.

Which raises the question: Are we in love with the Californian mind? If so, aren't we crazy?

46 comments:

Mark Trade said...

I've been an Apple fan for decades and this has always annoyed me. Well, not annoyed as much as caused my eyes to roll or smirk or be like, "whatever."

But I read a few months ago an article that said that phrase isn't really meant for us, but for them, the designers and other employees working in Cupertino, especially now that Steve Jobs is gone. They need to have their inspiration guided and held together by something to work as a team, and if it's not a strong leader like Jobs, then something else they have in common which they all like-- California.

Matthew Sablan said...

I assume it is an attempt at self-effacing humor to make themselves less elitist sounding (the Genius Bar at Mac Stores, for example, is insufferable.)

Ann Althouse said...

"I assume it is an attempt at self-effacing humor..."

You're guessing that they wanted that commercial to be laughed at? That isn't what Apple has done in the past. Like it was a spoof of bullshit ads like that?

I find that very hard to believe.

I think they want the cult, and once you start laughing at a cult, the cult gig is over.

D. Luthor said...

I always avoid Apple products like the plague: hard to use, quirky. I've also followed the company so long that I remember the long Jobs-free years.

Case in point: the first Macintosh lacked a disk eject button. It instead had a tiny pinhole into which one had to jam a bent paperclip to eject a diskette. Computer labs with Macs in them in the university had little piles of bent paperclips by the consoles.

So I know that if I see "Designed by Apple", I know it will be hard to use, quirky, and cost from two to three times what the competition costs. And if that iPhone were not designed by Apple, it would cost half as much and have added to it useful features such as a slider keyboard, and 4 menu/etc buttons.

Tech talk over...

Now, there is one type of label like this that I think it is cool: it is the "Imported from Detroit" campaign from Chrysler. A stand-out in an era of truly forgettable auto company slogans (Quick: What is Ford's current slogan? Ah. You couldn't remember it either).

Graham Powell said...

The thing I hate about these ads is that they could be for anything. When you saw an ad for the iPod (I'm thinking of the ones with a figure in white silhouette against a monochrome background), you instantly knew what the ad was for. These ads remind me of the "imported from Detroit" car ads, except with less vigor.

This never would have happened if Steve Jobs were still alive!

Jay Vogt said...

This is a pretty disturbing leading indicator. It's a strategic call by the senior leadership to get the brand to support the products rather than the products to support the brand. By this (mis)allocation of resources you attrit the brand and starve the product development. Time for a big special dividend form the BOD

Henry said...

When the design team finally turns out the lights, they can go all pro-union: "Unloaded by a teamster in Long Beach California"

Jay Vogt said...

Although, I do like the similarly discunctional "Imported from Detroit" campaign from Fiat/Chrysler.

There, I think they are actually trying to upset a target customer preconception in an intertaining and memorable way.

Big Mike said...

I think we're supposed to forget that under California's current anti-business, pro-regulation climate the two Steves -- Jobs and Wozniak -- could never have started Apple in a Silicon Valley garage.

G Bugg said...

I was curious how Apple would transition its advertising effort from being a "hip" brand for a self aggrandizing minority to a dominant market leader where the ladies serving you in the high school cafeteria are wearing white ear buds. Not well apparently.

TosaGuy said...

Not a single scene in that ad showed Apple products being used for work. All this ad does is reinforce that all Apples sells are feel-good toys to the affluent.

Samsung will trade the lifestyle market for the work market any day of the week.

Paddy O said...

"once you start laughing at a cult, the cult gig is over."

This is true about both Apple and California.

There is no California mind anymore. I change that. There very much is, but those with the true California mind, the pioneers, the explorers, the entrepreneurs, the wanderers, the prophets, don't have any space or room or voice anymore. California became too easy, attracted all the hangers on and followers, the bottom of the pyramid people. They make California into a Liberal mainstay, thus, curiously, establishing a very conservative approach to life: afraid of risk, controlled by the state, limiting freedom, very class oriented, high taxes, high cost of living, which keeps people in their respective places. Meanwhile, it's the Conservatives who are the most liberal, making space for people to explore and find freedom, using their resources for risk and invitation, rather than for protection.

The California mind embraces risk and often as not experiences failure, but then there's the eventual boom: gold, oil, religion, farming, aerospace, technology. There's no room for the boom when the entire system is limiting and making about keeping it safe.

Nostalgia replaces creativity. Which seems to be exactly what Apple is doing here.

John said...

I am not a big Apple fan. I've owned one Apple product, an original 20GB I-Pod and thought it was crap. Not only was it crap but I could only get music from the I-Tunes store which made it double crappy.

On the other hand, the value added by manufacture of the I-Phone and other products is not as great as most people think. A very large part of the value, as expressed in the selling price, is in the design.

If you break the price down, I think over 50% of it, design, marketing, support, profit comes from the US.

Another large portion is materials, many of which do not come from China and some of which come from the US.

So who cares where it is made?

John Henry

KLDAVIS said...

Some people still pay attention to negative space. When they say 'designed,' a few will instantly think about where it's made, and why they aren't proud of that.

I see a corollary in the world of American Whiskey, which is rife with people selling other people's distillate under their own label. There are only a handful of real players in U.S. whiskey business, but hundreds of brands. The tell there is a label that says, "Bottled By XYZ Distillery."

The unknowing consumer doesn't distinguish bottled from made, but there's been a bit of backlash in recent years against these non-producer bottlers, to the point that some producers are starting to label their product, "Distilled, Aged, and Bottled by ABC."

Tyrone Slothrop said...

There are many in California who are disgusted with the "California mind". What it brings to my-- mind-- is a desperate need to push social innovation without the slightest regard for consequences. Pointless gun control, massive support for illegal immigrants, feathering the beds of public employees via untenable pension programs, and spending, spending, spending. I want to move before the shit hits the fan, but I have to live out my wage slavery first.

traditionalguy said...

IMO California from Santa Barbara north was a place where one could always make money. Jobs were always available and knowing that there would always be a source for money is what set the people people free there.

Removing the jobs from California to China is what killed that.

The Defense expenditures in California have been the last ones to go but Obama has that set in his sights too.

J. Farmer said...

"Designed in California" is an obvious PR ploy, but it does inadvertently make an interesting point that is often lost on people. Considering a product like the iPhone, very little of its value is added in the relatively low-skilled assembly in Foxconn's Chinese factories. The overwhelming majority of its value comes from the designers and software engineers in California.

Bruce Hayden said...

It is humorous, but I think that Apple is in trouble with Jobs gone. Personally, I thought that he was not a nice person. I was working on Apple related products at Motorola, when he dumped the clone project, costing Moto hundreds of millions of dollars, after that company had carried Apple through several downturns, supplying processors when Apple couldn't afford to pay for them. Later, after pushing Moto into the Power-PC with IBM, Moto was pushed out, and ultimately Apple dropped Power-PC in favor of Intel processors. Was the IP atty on that project (AIM Alliance) too at Moto. And killing them, and costing the company hundreds of millions that had stood behind them since their founding, was Steve Jobs.

BUT, he was the one with the vision. They struggled with their identity while he was gone, and his loss is starting to affect the company (again). Androids are apparently starting to really outsell iPhones by quite a bit. Yes, Apple makes more money on their phones, but how long will that last? Android is a more open platform, and ultimately, that will likely translate into being the predominant phone platform, and Apple again a niche player. And I would suggest that iPads are only really still successful because Microsoft screwed up their equivalent OS so badly (I tried a MSFT Win tablet first last winter, but traded it in for an iPad because the Win OS on the tablet was so bad, repeatedly hanging every couple minutes).

I have never been an Apple fan - have used Macs three times now for work, and was excited each time when I switched back to Windows. I didn't like how many decisions were decided for my by Jobs' esthetics, but do use both an iPhone and an iPad heavily these days. Still, the designs are not evolving, while the competition is.

Sigivald said...

Are we in love with the Californian mind? If so, aren't we crazy?

No, and maybe?

On the ads themselves, though, they're just separating the design (and innovation) from manufacturing, which is valid.

ASUS products, for instance, are equally "made in China", mostly - but they're designed by, well, not-Apple.

And it shows. A lot.

Note, however, that Apple is or soon will be doing iMac assembly in the US, and probably some manufacturing. Rumor has it the new Mac Pro will be US-built, too.

(No computer is "made in the USA" from the ground up, simply because it'd be ludicrously awkward to make sure every piece of silicon came from a US fabricator, especially considering that the majority of them - as I understand it - are not located in the US.

Just like no car is 100% "made in America", because parts are made wordlwide; Visteon makes their parts all over the world.

The idea that anything should be 100% "made in America" falls apart with basic economics, along with the desire for economic autarky.)

Eric said...

Apple's ads used to make people want to be a person who had an iPod, iPhone,... The new ads just want to keep people from leaving.

Sam L. said...

Graham Powell, that's the way I recall the first Mac commercial. I was blown away by it (I've seen "Metropolis".) The second time I saw it, I couldn't recall what it was for.

Mary Beth said...

Selling the experience of owning a product instead of actually selling the product made me think of the early ads for Infiniti. Like this one that never even shows the car. (Sorry, the sound with that video isn't very good.)

D. Luthor said...

Graham said: "When you saw an ad for the iPod (I'm thinking of the ones with a figure in white silhouette against a monochrome background), you instantly knew what the ad was for"

Those were just about the best ads they did. That, and the Mac vs PC guys (which curiously backfired, in that the Mac guy was smug and insufferable and the PC guy was a sympathetic figure... but they were good ads.

averagejoe said...

"You're not supposed to think of any possible suffering that has gone into making the thing"- LOL! What a load of bleeding heart baloney. The suffering of working in a factory or on an assembly line- O the suffering, or what some call "work" or others call "a job". But for foreign workers making international products for an American company, it's Suffering. I bled a lot and broke bones doing stone work for years, and I've worked on assembly lines, which was tit in comparison to stone-work. Suffering? Overwrought liberal hyperbole.

Aurelian said...

Apple's like every other company trying to get you to buy on feelings instead of analysis of the product vs. your needs. Feelings.....nothing more than feelings.....

Once they have you "hooked on a felling" you'll drain your wallet for a hit.

Robert said...

That slogan makes me hate them even more.

rowrrbazzle said...

Paddy O said "once you start laughing at a cult, the cult gig is over."

This is true about both Apple
and California.

Especially when Texas governor Perry was telling CA companies how much better it was in Texas! Their indignant responses were hilarious!

Althouse wrote, "You're supposed to imagine — ♫ imagine there's no factories, I wonder if you can — that these nifty items sprang fully formed from the minds of Californians."

Did you realize what you wrote actually fits into the song (well, squeezing that last line just a tad)?

♫ imagine that there's no factories —
I wonder if you can —
that these nifty items sprang
fully formed from the minds of Californians.

Hucbald said...

Doesn't seem like anything to get worked up over, and it sure won't make me go back to the PC/Windows torture devices.

Ernst Stavro Blofeld said...

The more interesting point is that it's unpatriotic. The usual context in which you see "Made in..." is "Made in USA", "Made in Japan", and so on. Apple flipped that slightly to "DESIGNED in", and substituted California for the US.

Apparently the Apple brand doesn't want to be associated with the US, and thinks that California is cooler than the US.

They've had this slogan for several years on their packaging. It's a dead certainty that Steve approved it, probably came up with it. It's got that Steve-ness feeling to it.

Chas Clifton said...

@ D. Luthor

Ejecting a floppy disk with a paperclip was something you did only in the rare case that the screen command (drag disk image to Trash) did not work. You should have mentioned that.

Steven said...

The Moto X. Equally designed in California, but actually assembled in Texas.

Aaron said...

Foxconn pays its workers more than other factories, and the workers want overtime because their goal is to earn enough to go back to their village, buy a house and get married. Its not a career, for most.

Factory work, by its nature sort of sucks...but so does planting rice back home.

Another point: when have hundreds of thousands of employees, mostly young people of both sexes, hundreds of miles from home, in dorms....would you not expect some suicides?

Demanding Foxconn have zero suicides is like demanding the US Army to have zero suicides. Or the post office.

Aaron said...

" ♫ imagine there's no factories, I wonder if you can"

Keep in mind, the tech industry has in general done well in exporting the factory work to China.

California has high costs and tons of regulations...not very friendly to factories.

I would bet that if Apple et al were forced to make products in the USA they would not open factories in California, and they would suddenly start donating more to Republicans.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Yes, they are insufferable uber-hipsters. Still, once Samsung takes over, and the gadgets are designed AND built in Asia, that will not be a win for the U.S.

TMLutas said...

News flash: Apple has always targeted certain demographics and if you didn't fall into those demographics, you generally either wondered what all the fuss was about or you outright hated them. Once in awhile they targeted a *very* big demographic and had a mega hit on their hands but imitators eventually commoditize those (see Windows) and the market slips away.

D Luthor's complaint is so old, it ranks right up there with the people who just can't let go of the Apple II. They're still out there too. You used to be able to just take away removable disks and the OS didn't know it until it tried to read the disk, at which point it threw an ugly error because it didn't know whether the drive went bad or somebody had removed the media. In Mac OS the lack of a manual eject button meant that a significantly higher percent of the time, the OS knew where its disks were and you didn't get cryptic errors and windows showing files on the screen that no longer were there.

You can either appreciate that or not, but quirky or hard to use? I don't think so.

Carey J. said...

Imagine all the people, living on the dole.

ArtH said...

Bot the first Mac in '84. Didn't sleep for three days fascinated with the new interface. Yes, they did Think Different. And it caused them to ultimately have a huge problem: what to do with $80 Billion in cash and no debt. That problem may just kill the company like lottos do their winners generally.

BillW said...

You touched into a wellspring of emotion on this, Ann.

I am a huge Apple product fan. I resisted for a long time, messing around with trying to get an .mp3 player to work as advertised with MS player or Real Player; or trying to get Amazon music download to work with players, etc, etc; Finally broke down and bought first Ipod, and everything just WORKED together right out of the box,and intuitively. The IPOD worked and synched with Itunes, the Itunes store worked with Itunes, then I did an Itouch, then an Iphone, then an Ipad and now a Macbook. Everything works together, has common features, synchs easily. So, a huge fan of the technology.

But I have had to work in Cupertino/ San Jose with Apple, Yahoo, Google and others, and all I can say is I have no idea how these insufferable douche bags ever produce a product, much less a good one. All I could think is that it was a strong leader, and a few solid people surrounded by the doucehbags.

And the Apple Store - it is insufferable. It is overstaffed, everyone has to have an attitude, and the ones that kill me are the adults they hired out of corporate America layoff pool that now have to cut their hair short, spike it, put in an earring, get a tatoo, and wear shorts. No matter the makeover, they look wildly uncomfortable. I just cannot keep a straight face in the store. And again, only a few people in the store know what they are doing and make it work.

jr565 said...

John wrote:
Not only was it crap but I could only get music from the I-Tunes store which made it double crappy.


Then you weren't using iTunes right.

jr565 said...

Wow I've used macs (and pc's) for years and I barely remember ever having to use a clip to eject a disk, let alone even use a disk. Is that d Luthors point of reference when it comes to the Mac? The original Mac?
And macs are moderately easier to use than Windows, but both are pretty easy to use. Unless you want to delve into the innards of geekdome and then they are as complex as you want them to be.
And by the way, a lot of people were completely befuddled by windows 8 since it was so different than windows 7 and it requires a learning curve to master the basics.

D. Luthor said...

"In Mac OS the lack of a manual eject button meant that a significantly higher percent of the time, the OS knew where its disks were and you didn't get cryptic errors and windows showing files on the screen that no longer were there."

Except it didn't work. So much of the time it was frozen up or not or in some interminable wait state. It was definitely harder to use, which was why PC makers didn't copy the design blunder, and kept eject buttons on. The reason why cassette players, CD players, etc have an eject button: it is far more friendly and intuitive than user-hostile mouse moves and key combinations.

The "alternative" of throwing the disk in the trashcan required tedious UI navigation, and was also nonsensical in its metaphor (chuck it in the garbage to eject it).

The Commodore Amiga had the best approach: they had the strange UI metaphors, the OS knew if the disk was there or not, and you could eject it with a large friendly button also.

Seriously, were they such cheapskates that they couldn't have had a disk eject eject button added for 7 cents or whatever. Very quirky and hard-to-use, which explained all the bent paperclips.

----

Aaron said, re Foxconn: "Another point: when have hundreds of thousands of employees, mostly young people of both sexes, hundreds of miles from home, in dorms....would you not expect some suicides?"

Suicides happen anywhere, in any population. Wisconsin, for example, has hundreds per year.

D. Luthor said...

Chas said: "Ejecting a floppy disk with a paperclip was something you did only in the rare case that the screen command (drag disk image to Trash) did not work. You should have mentioned that."

I didn't mention that, or the obscure key combination, because they were also examples of design failures and Apple's "hard to use" aspects. And, as I said earlier, the problem was far from "rare".

Bent paperclips in pinholes are less friendly than nice large eject buttons, period.

Douglas von Roeder said...

"I didn't mention that, or the obscure key combination, because they were also examples of design failures and Apple's "hard to use" aspects. And, as I said earlier, the problem was far from "rare".

Bent paperclips in pinholes are less friendly than nice large eject buttons, period."
Amazing that you disparage the Macintosh interface - I accept that Apple didn't invent the WIMP interface (windows, icons, mouse, and pointer) but, in that it has become the standard against which all GUI's are compared, perhaps the computing world disagrees with your opinion.
On the topic of ejecting a floppy disk - I don't recall when Apple added an eject key to the keyboard but the eject function has been built into the Mac since it was created.
As is still standard today, if you select an item that can be ejected, the File menu enables the "Eject" menu item. When selected, the Mac will activate the floppy drive motor which will attempt to eject the item.
Another approach is to simply drag the item in question to the trash. As a long time Mac user, though I used other PC's prior to using a Mac, I've heard the complaints that's counterintuitive. My thinking was, and remains, "You're right. Get over it."
Paperclips were used in the event that the motor could not eject the disk and your observation is correct that Apple did not include a button on the front of the computer. Again, you might want to take into account the fact that the Apple hardware has won dozens of industrial design awards over the years.
The question, however, for me is - did you actually not realize that there were multiple ways to eject a floppy disk or are you simply complaining about a design issue that became obsolete almost 20 years ago?

Douglas von Roeder said...

"I didn't mention that, or the obscure key combination, because they were also examples of design failures and Apple's "hard to use" aspects. And, as I said earlier, the problem was far from "rare".
Bent paperclips in pinholes are less friendly than nice large eject buttons, period."

Amazing that you disparage the Macintosh interface - I accept that Apple didn't invent the WIMP interface (windows, icons, mouse, and pointer) but I'm surprised to hear such complaints about the standard against which all GUI's have been compared for the past thirty years.
On the topic of ejecting a floppy disk - I don't recall when Apple added an eject key to the keyboard but the eject function has been built into the Mac since it was created.
As is still standard today, if you select an item that can be ejected, the File menu enables the "Eject" menu item. When selected, the Mac will activate the floppy drive motor which will attempt to eject the floppy disk.
Another approach is to simply drag the item in question to the trash. As a long time Mac user, though I used other PC's prior to using a Mac, I've heard the complaints that's counterintuitive. My thinking was, and remains, "You're right. Get over it."
Paperclips were used in the event that the motor could not eject the disk and your observation is correct that Apple did not include a button on the front of the computer. Again, you might want to take into account the fact that the Apple hardware has won dozens of industrial design awards over the years.
The question, however, for me is - did you actually not realize that there were multiple ways to eject a floppy disk or are you simply complaining about a design issue that became obsolete over 15 years ago (because Apple phased out the floppy disk in about 1997)?

D. Luthor said...

I simply "get over it" by not using such poorly-designed hardware that requires jamming something in a pinhole to eject media. The standard is an eject button on the drive itself.. all the way into the modern era on optical media also. Clumsy non-intuitive UI based methods still don't beat tried and true, easy to use. It is this way with other Apple "Features" where they skimp and make things hard to use. Other companies are more responsive to users.

Itunes is another example. I installed it and fought for hours trying to copy mp3s from my PC to my iphone. I eventually got it working, but what an ordeal. In contrast, I got a cheap generic Mp3 player, plugged it in, and copied my songs within seconds... no itunes install hell, no special software, no synch worries. It just worked.... in a fraction of the time of Itunes torture

heyboom said...

I can do all of the things with my Android that an iPhone can but I don't have to hear that sappy piano music while I'm doing it. I say that as the only person in my family that doesn't have an iPhone.