September 6, 2011
Design History Appreciated
by Bill Buxton
Back in 1926, Kodak launched the third generation of its all-black Vest Pocket camera line, the Series III. It sold well, but the company wanted to expand the market and make the camera appeal to women as well as men. To help with this, Kodak turned to designer Walter Dorwin Teague. His concept was to release essentially the same camera but in five distinct and different colors packaged in color-matched satin-lined boxes. This version of the camera was released in April 1928 under the name Vanity Kodak.
In 2003, Apple Computer launched the third generation of its all-white MP3 music player, the iPod. It sold well, but the company wanted to expand the market and make the iPod appeal to women as well as men. To help with this, Apple turned to its lead designer, Jonathan Ive. His concept was to release a smaller version of its MP3 player in five distinct and different colors. This version of the iPod was released in January 2004 under the name iPod Mini.
One started from black, the other from white. The strategies were the same, the numbers the same and the colors the same.
Walter Dorwin Teague was Chuck Berry to Jonathan Ive’s Keith Richards. It was a matter of respect and inspiration, not plagiarism or copying. It was also an act that increases, rather than diminishes, the respect due to Ive, since designers are measured by who they quote in their designs, how and when.