Design Apple

Designed in California: a visual history of Apple products

Apple has released a sumptuous hardback book chronicling 20 years of its products in 450 photographs

Only Apple could do this: Designed by Apple in California is a monograph, a history of Apple in 450 photographs, from 1998’s iMac to 2015’s Apple Pencil, which also documents the materials and techniques used by Apple’s design team over two decades of innovation.

But just as Apple famously looked at existing portable music players and improved them to create the iPod, and repeated the trick with the iPhone, so Designed by Apple in California is the book at its very bookiest.

Take the materials used to make it. When Apple designs a laptop, it doesn’t use just any off-the-shelf casing material. So it goes with paper. Of course there are lots of beautiful papers on the market, but none good enough for Apple’s book. Instead Sir Jony Ive commissioned James Cropper Paper in the Lake District to create a specially-created, custom-dyed paper with gilded matte silver edges for its pages.

Spreads which offer an insight into apple product design
The custom-designed tool used to created the body for the Mac mini, 2010

And four-colour printing was never going to be adequate for this one. Nor even a spot colour or two. No, Designed by Apple in California is printed using eight-colour separations for the most faithful colour reproduction possible and ‘low-ghost’ ink to reduce any softening of images.

Of course there were existing photographs of all the products featured, but they didn’t match each other exactly, so everything was reshot by Andrew Zuckerman.

And just as the theatre of the ‘unboxing’ process plays such a role in the acquisition of a new Apple product, so opening this book is no mundane task. It comes in a white shipping box with a simple, elegant ‘draw-tab’ to gain access.

Custom-designed, tungsten carbide cutting tools used to manufacture the iPhone 4 bezel
Custom-designed, tungsten carbide cutting tools used to manufacture the iPhone 4 bezel

Of course all this doesn’t come quickly or cheaply. The book took eight years to produce. And in typical Apple style, the book is available in two versions – the standard, ‘small’ one at £169 and a slightly better, ‘large’ one at £249. You can only buy it at or in select Apple Stores.

The book is dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs. It’s very much a work in the best Jobsian tradition.

Spreads which offer an insight into apple product design
Inside the Power Mac G4 Cube, 2000
Spreads which offer an insight into apple product design
The eight steps in the process of creating an iPhone 5s Leather Case, 2013

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Lecturer Design Management

Kingston University

Design Assistant

Cultureshock Media