Ren & Stimpy creator John K. disses iPhone/iPad’s design - Macenstein

Ren & Stimpy creator John K. disses iPhone/iPad’s design

Apple is widely regarded in the electronics industry as a design leader and innovator. There is little doubt that even Apple’s stiffest competition look to Apple for “inspiration” for their own designs. But is this a good thing? Not according to Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, it isn’t.

In a recent blog post, John singles out Apple’s iPhone and iPad as examples of the lack of thought and design in today’s gadgets. And after reading John’s post, quite frankly I think he might have a point.

Writes Kricfalusi:

I remember a time when you’d swear everyone was a design genius. Every TV, appliance, Fridge, Toaster and even transistor radio was beautiful to look at- and there was an endless variety of designs for each humdrum everyday household item. We took all this wealth of eye candy for granted.

Now everything looks like this:

Even Sony, arguably the PC industry’s “Apple” got some flack.

…and check out this retarded ad:

90% blank space and a tiny black sliver of the featureless product. This is supposed to induce us to buy it? Yet everyone thinks this way today…

Look what Sony used to be capable of:

As an animator of far less talent than John, I have much respect for his opinions on design, and in looking at the samples above, one can see John’s point. There certainly did seem to be a sense of “art” to the designs of old that one could argue is missing from today’s gadgets. However, I can’t help but wonder if some of their charm relies simply in how dated and innocent they look when seen with today’s eyes. Cotton Candy-colored electronics remind us of the Back to the Future movies where people all wore hats and said “Gosh” and “Swell” and nothing bad ever happened (well, except for the whole clock tower thing).

And while I can see John’s point, I think he is missing something with respect to today’s consumer electronics and Apple’s gadgets in particular. First and foremost, advances in technology have made it so it is no longer necessary for a TV to take up half your living room in order to give you a whopping 12-inch screen. In the good old days designers had to do something to dress up the vast unadorned panels that would otherwise be visible, simply to accommodate the giant tubes and pre-transistor guts of the machines.

But to address John’s Apple critique in particular, I think what he’s missing here is that the iPhone and iPad are designed with two things in mind – portability, and providing as large a viewing screen as possible. Apple’s design philosophy has always been to take away any distractions from the end user experience, and put the focus squarely on the purpose of the device, in the case of the iPhone and iPad, to give the user a way to view and interact with the content on the screen, something that was not possible in the art deco days. Apple has stripped its designs down to the barest essentials, allowing the TRUE design elements to come via software and programming. Yes, it can feel sterile when compared with older technology, but all it really is is the evolution of design away from hardware and towards software. And here too one can find some truly inspiring designs.

14 Responses to “Ren & Stimpy creator John K. disses iPhone/iPad’s design”
  1. TBM says:

    You’ve got to be kidding right? These things are butt ugly IMO. I like the minimalist of todays design! What I buy is the function, the ascetics is of only minimal importance. After all being small means little room for “design features”. even on a big screen TV.
    besides thats what skins are for right?

  2. Patrick L says:

    Eh, says the guy who created the scariest/most hideous cartoon ever. It was the only cartoon i couldn’t watch as a kid because it was too “bad”, i think it just scared my mom.

  3. mike says:

    TMB is right. Those things remind me of a windows or Mac UI – lots of colors and swoosh that serve no purpose other than to look classy on the sales floor, and then wind up distracting you from the job at hand when you get down to real work.

  4. I gettit, this guy is getting into a deep depression due to his failure of successful design.

  5. Joe says:

    The Doc makes a great point though. All that extra bulk was there for the sake of taking away from the eyesore of how big the devices were! Apple did the same exact trick with the original iMacs. It wasn’t until the digital and flatscreen revolution that electronics designs became so minimalistic. And on the flip side, many of today’s appliances are still just as jazzy as they looked in the fifties. Kitchen aid mixers, coffee makers, washer/dryers….

    I do think his argument can be made against today’s cars though. Car designs these days are so blase!

  6. annonuem says:

    It’ s like comparing a Gothik-Church with a bauhaus-Building.
    Both is nice but both is different.
    He should buy an old iMac an maybe he bekomes lucky!

  7. Jonro says:

    Doc is correct in his remarks. Those devices were as large as they were because they had to be, not because anyone wanted them to be that large. That amount of “canvas” required a different type of design aesthetic. Also, the design of each decade changes. Designing something small and pocket-able like the iPhone is very different than designing a tabletop radio.

    Fifty years ago, technology was a novelty and you wanted to show it off a bit. Today, technology is ubiquitous. There is so much of it, we try to make it fit seamlessly and unobtrusively into our lives.

    Apple has no forgotten color entirely, however. The iPod Shuffle and nano are available in several colors. Maybe the demographic market for those devices like bright colors and maybe they’re so small, colors help keep them from getting lost.

  8. Paul says:

    Ah, Ren & Stimpy. I still recall the “rotten teeth” episode to this day. Brilliant.

  9. John says:

    I’m a fan of Apple’s products and design and of John K’s animation. I concede all of Apple’s products look similar—it’s their brand/style. If other companies ape it, that is a compliment to Apple. I would point out that all of John K’s animation projects pretty much look like Ren & Stimpy, which has always shamelessly aped Hanna Barbara. There are a lot of followers-on of John K’s style. It would seem John K’s complaint against the “Apple design” could be made against him as well.

  10. Bjarki says:

    I think it’s a very valid opinion. You can’t satisfy everyone. Design has (thankfully) evolved, and if it has become faceless, it’s also become inobtrusive and uncluttered. He’s not a fan, and that’s fine. I am.

  11. I tried to start a jar of nose goblins but I kept getting hungry.

  12. …and he designed Ren & Stimpy. ‘Nuff said.

  13. Rob says:

    I’m trying to picture the frame of my flat screen TV with a bright ketchup red. To each his own I suppose…I would much rather focus on the picture of the screen than to be distracted by the color/design of the electronics. I think the AD for Sony is pretty blah…but that might be the point…they wanted to show how small and compact the design is.

    IMHO, today, it’s about what’s inside the device and not necessarily what it looks like. People are concerned with how much crap they can store on their digital device, how fast they can get it to go and how pretty the pictures look. All black design makes the user focus on the parts that are important. Plus, most of those paints used were cheap and lethal to the user. Hey, it helps out the third party vendor or a DiYer to come out with a colorful design….a blank canvas so to speak.

  14. Lewys says:

    Good Lord – obviously John is having a depressive nostalgia fit or something. What he either doesn’t remember, or is too young to know is that a large amount of that kitsch was to mitigate the fact that much of it was utter crap!

    I owned a bunch of that stuff – give me current tech. I might from time to time gut one of those for updating with some solid working modern circuitry, just ‘cuz I happen to have a soft-spot for a case or something, but lordy-lordy do I want the 10,000 BTUs of tube tech static-y mono-signal frequency-drifting challenges of the “good old days”? Hell no. So yeah – not everything built today is built as solid as it used to be. But you have a much better choice of quality, and fewer problems.

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