Design Gratitude #8: Apple AirPods
Also: Dan Hollick, a writing tip from Derek Sivers, and a design tokens tool
Hey designers! 👋
Hope you’re having a great week.
After knocking out 12 pieces since the beginning of August, I’m refining my writing cadence to find a more sustainable pace. As it turns out, publishing twice per week every week was a bit aggressive while I’m still working full-time and trying to have a life. Who woulda thought? 🙃 So, back to weekly it is.
If you’re getting value from Better By Design, the best way to support me is to share it with your network! I’m really grateful you all are here, and while I do my best to hustle the promotion game on Twitter, it’s still a lot more powerful when you share it with the world. So if you’re open to it, please share!
With that said, let’s kick off the week with some design gratitude, shall we?
Design gratitude 🙏
This week I’m grateful for Apple AirPods.
Oh AirPods, ubiquitous and beloved now but mocked relentlessly at their release. They were introduced in 2016 alongside the iPhone 7 which infamously removed the headphone jack and dropped the $29 wired EarPods for these $159 wireless ones. People called them “Q-tip design”, languished over how easy they would be to lose, and turned them into a million memes.
But then the funniest thing happened… people started using them.
And guess what? It turned out AirPods were pretty awesome to use.
So awesome, in fact, that they turned Apple into the largest headphone manufacturer in the world within two years of their release!
So instead of mocking them, let’s count the ways they’re a good design.
Rams’ Principle #2: They’re useful
Bluetooth headphones had historically been a bit of a nuisance.
They weren’t bad outright, but they had enough annoying quirks that you probably weren’t reaching for them as your one and only daily driver.
AirPods solved this for Apple customers.
We went from “wireless headphones as an occasional companion to wired headphones” to “wireless headphones as many people’s only headphones” much more quickly than I think anyone anticipated.
All due to how useful AirPods were.
Rams’ Principle #4: They’re understandable
The AirPods pass the tried and true “would my Mom understand this?“ user experience test; they just work right out of the box.
The first-time experience of pairing them with your device is dead simple. The experience of using them routinely is as simple as putting them in your ears. And even the experience of charging them is as simple as putting them back in their case.
It’s an ease of use that truly can’t be overstated.
Rams’ Principle #5: They’re unobtrusive
Despite the initial mockery of AirPods’ look, people quickly adapted once they got them in their ears. The true wireless set-up opened so many new doors.
Particularly if you pair AirPods with the Apple Watch (which let’s face it, Apple really wants you to), you can get pretty dang far without carrying a bigger device. At this point, I can hardly imagine going for a long run without them.
They sound good, work seamlessly and just get out of the way which makes for a powerful and hit-making product combination.
Coffee break links ☕
Designer of the week 🧑🎨
Dan Hollick – Co-Founder at juggle & product designer at TIDAL
Dan lives on the edge of design and development and shares some really wonderful technical design deep dives. He had a thread take off last week that broke down how a QR code works which is a great intro to the kind of thinking you can expect from him.
Give him a follow on Twitter and check out his unrolled threads on Typefully!
A technique for writing 💭
“Writing one sentence per line” - Derek Sivers
I recently came across this article on Derek Sivers’ blog that helped improve my writing process. As the name suggests, the technique is simple: write one sentence per line while you’re drafting ideas to make it easier to see the flow of your argument.
Seeing your thoughts visually separated also makes it easier to reorder them. I often write a sentence and later realize it should be in a different spot. Following this approach makes it easy to edit my drafts quickly and for the best effect.
Give it a shot!
A tool for design foundations 🎨
Shaper - Interface style shaping tool
Shaper is a fantastic tool for visually gauging the impact of changing foundational design variables like text sizing, spacing, etc…
It’s still all too common to see teams overuse one-off styles to implement designs. But leaning into the power of techniques like design tokens and tech like CSS custom properties (variables) leads to vastly more robust interfaces.
Check out Shaper to get a feel for that power!
Signing off 🖖,
Recently on Design Gratitude 🔙
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