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Apple Has Picasso’s Art To Thank For Inspiring Its Iconically Minimal Designs
By Mikelle Leow, 30 Jan 2019
Image via bfk / Shutterstock.com
You would think Apple’s design principles on simplicity would hail from a singular source, but they’re really a melting pot of pretty complex ideas.
“It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges, and come up with elegant solutions,” the late Steve Jobs once said.
An in-depth feature by Artsy points out that Apple owes much of its design philosophy to abstract artist Pablo Picasso’s series of 11 lithographs, The Bull.
The artworks—dating between 1945 and 1946—started with an intricate, realistically-rendered image of a bull, but morphed and ended with a handful of lines denominating the animal to its essence. The project was a “step-by-step example” of how an image could be broken down into simple visual elements.
“Each time, less and less of the bull remained,” recalled printmaker Fernand Mourlot, who worked with him on the series. “He used to look at me and laugh. ‘Look…’ he would say, ‘We ought to give this bit to the butcher.”
The artist eventually appointed just “two holes” to mark the face of the bull. “Enough to evoke it without representing it,” he would say. “But isn’t it strange that it can be done through such simple means?... Whatever is most abstract may perhaps be the summit of reality.”
The project’s last lithograph contained just 12 lines, but it was still undoubtedly an image of a bull.
“I still remembered the first bull and I said to myself: What I don’t understand is that he has ended up where really he should have started,” said Mourlot. “And when you look at that line, you cannot imagine how much work it involved.”
Apple now incorporates these 11 prints in its internal training presentations. While the correlation between Picasso and Apple’s ideologies was obvious to many, the link was publicly established in 2014, when the New York Times had the opportunity to attend the tech giant’s highly secretive training program.
Randy Nelson, former dean of Pixar University, taught his ‘Communicating at Apple’ course using all 11 lithographs of The Bull at the Apple University. In one slide, he described the process of breaking down the creature as, “You go through more iterations until you can simply deliver your message in a very concise way, and that is true to the Apple brand and everything we do.”
You can find remnants of Picasso’s The Bull series in Apple’s blueprint. In describing the process of building a variation of the ‘Power Mac’, Jony Ive—the company’s design chief—recalled, “We wanted to get rid of anything other than what was absolutely essential. We kept going back to the beginning, again and again. [We asked,] do we need that part? Can we get it to perform the function of the other four parts?”
Ive detailed that one would need to truly understand the essence of a product “in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”
You can watch Picasso’s sketches evolve to just the gist of a bull in the animation below.
[via Artsy, images via various sources]
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