Why Apple’s aesthetic is influencing the future of electronics design

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The Independent Tech

In the years to come the PC market will be dominated by touchscreen computers. These computers will be comprised of little more than a large, flat screen say market analysts who are predicting "this UI-based [design] approach will be of major importance in the coming years."

The touchscreen dominated design of the iPad is a distant relative to the large clunky cream pieces of plastic our fathers dreamed of owning. The iPad is a device that lets users forget the technology they are using as it morphs into almost anything they can imagine through the use of applications.

After years of ugly desktop machines and little regard to aesthetic design (an exterior of square plastic was the best way to disguise the complex maze of components inside), computer manufacturers are starting to change their design tune.

"Electronic products have always been designed the same way, with a motherboard-oriented approach starting with the circuits and semiconductors on a central Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and then wrapping UI-focused elements like the keyboard and display around it," said Derek Lidow, president and chief executive officer at iSuppli in an April 29 report on why the iPad's design is set to shake up the electronics supply chain.

"The iPad is not designed that way. It doesn't have a traditional motherboard. Rather, it is designed with the UI (user interface) as the starting point: Apple started by designing the screen, the touch pad and the battery, and lastly focused on the semiconductors and where to put them. This design is what gives the product a unique feel and functionality."

Apple has popularized the notion of design first, interior electronics components second that has started echoing through to mainstream computer creation. Innovative manufacturers and computer fanatics are envisaging new forms for the common PC, turning it into a functional artwork, creating devices where the exterior design is as important as what's inside.

This trend is set to stay as manufacturers realize the value of building computers from a foundation of good design. Manufacturers like Dell, HP and LG are slowly cottoning onto the trend, as is evidenced by their recent collaborations with well known designers. The companies have teamed up with fashion and product designers in order to create appealing electronics products for younger, design-oriented consumers.

Luxury electronics makers like Artopz, Mobiado and Eazo have already shown the world that desktop computers don't have to be large square boxes that sit on your desk and mobile phones don't have to look like bricks.

Apple's designs are not the only thing influencing the next generation of electronic product design trends. Crowd-sourced design projects have been popping up all over the place as companies put more emphasis on social networks and the communities built around their brand name.

Mobile phone maker Nokia has embarked on a project called "Design by Community." The company is currently working on three concepts for a new mobile phone based on their community's design suggestions, ideas and more than 72,000 votes. Once the initial sketches have been finalized, users will again be in charge of selecting the winning design and the name of the phone.

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