Why does MacBook Pro look thick?

After the release of Apple's new MacBook Pro, there have been mixed reviews of the changes in its design.

▲ Left: PowerBook G4, right: MacBook Pro 16 (2021)

Some people say "Mream Back to the PowerBook G4" era, some say "It's too thick", some say "too ugly", and some say "I finally figured it out."

Compared with the previous mold, the new MacBook Pro is indeed more rounded, and visually, it is indeed more "thick". Beauty and ugliness are more like subjective judgments.

▲ MacBook Pro 16 (2021). Picture from: The Verge

As for "want to understand", it's more like taking functionality as the starting point. Stronger scalability and more practical keyboard design are indeed more commensurate with Pro.

In previous interviews , the development team of the MacBook Pro and M chips also listened to the needs of many professional users and integrated them with the products, and kept in mind "not creating art, but productivity tools", and this is how it was born. Introduced the new MacBook Pro for Pro users.

▲ Apple chip architect and vice president Tim Millet (Tim Millet). Picture from: Apple

The message from Apple’s internal product team seems to have a hint of design compromise with “functions”. Even with the M1 Pro/Max, which is more energy efficient, it has not completely liberated Apple’s strong design capabilities.

It seems that Apple is beginning to lean towards functionality and downplay the design?

Take a closer look, the new MacBook Pro shell omits the straight lines and sharp corners of the "old mold", and uses a "curve" to transition the two planes. The edges are not narrowed. Therefore, the thickness of the new MacBook Pro is comparable to the data. The old model is not much different, but there is a visual distinction.

Perhaps this is the charm of "design".

Not only the new MacBook Pro has reduced straight lines and sharp corners, but also new products such as HomePod, iPad, Magic Keyboard, or products that are changing their appearance, all have similar trends.

"Curves" are used a lot, and the straight lines and sharp corners brought by the hard transition are much less. If you look closely, you can't see where the straight line ends or where the rounded corners begin.

From the perspective of design language, the changes in the appearance of MacBook Pro are more like convergence and unification, rather than compromise to pragmatism.

What is the shape of the square circle?

The word square is actually similar to the English Squircle, which is a combination of square and circle.

▲ The difference between a rounded rectangle and a square circle. Picture from: Arthur Van Siclen

But it does not represent a simple tangent superposition of a circle and a square (this is a typical rounded rectangle), but the curvature of the curve will gradually increase, gradually increasing the visible curve, and it has a smoother transition.

▲ The pixel-level gap between the rounded rectangle and the square circle. Picture from: Arthur Van Siclen

Apple first introduced a "square-circle" transition curve on iOS 7, and it was accompanied by a transition to flattening. And since then, the design concept of the square circle has also begun to appear in the ecology of Apple's hardware and software.

This change was actually brought by Jonathan Ive, the former chief design officer of Apple. When talking about whether it violated the design philosophy of Steve Jobs, Ive also emphasized that the square circle is just a pixel. It is still a rounded rectangle in essence. Such a change did not go against Jobs' wishes.

▲ Macintosh equipped with a 68K processor. Picture from: macgui

As early as when the Macintosh graphical interface was developed, due to the limited computing power of the Macintosh's 68K processor at that time, it could not support floating-point operations, so it was impossible to draw ellipses by conventional algorithms.

Apple engineer Bill Atkinson (Bill Atkinson) came up with a clever algorithm to use addition and subtraction to replace complex operations such as multiplication, division and squaring. But this was not praised by Jobs, but wanted to use it to draw a rounded rectangle.

▲ The one on the right is Bill Atkinson. Picture from: Apple

The next thing is that the familiar world is full of rounded rectangles, and so should the Macintosh. In the next few months, rounded rectangles appeared in every corner of the user interface.

The history of the square circle is longer than that of the Macintosh, but its earliest appearance is not in the field of design, but in mathematics. The earliest dating back to 1818, researchers essence of elliptic equations index limit.

When applied to actual cases, it was in the urban planning of Stockholm, Sweden in 1959.

▲ The famous square circle design in the center of Segel Square in Stockholm, Sweden.

Multiple main roads converge to form a large rectangular space. In order to make more reasonable use of space and not interfere with traffic, as a consultant, Piet Hein creatively combined mathematics and art and solved it with a multivariate equation. And the solution of this equation is "square circle".

Compatible with traffic smoothness and aesthetics, it was the advantage that the square circle brought to the product at that time.

What are the benefits of a square circular design?

After Peter Hein, the architect Zaha Hadid also used a large number of curves with different curvatures in his works. The Guangzhou Grand Theater and Beijing Daxing Airport are his main works.

She was called the "Queen of the Curve" by the "Guardian", and gave an evaluation of "she liberated the geometry of architecture and gave them a new expressive power".

Whether it is Apple's products or Hadid's buildings, the use of curved surfaces instead of sharp transitions removes the mark of mass production of industrial products and eliminates the traces of being manufactured.

▲ iPad Pro Magic Keyboard. Picture from: Arthur Van Siclen

The soft transition surface hardly reminds us of industrial assembly lines, automobile manufacturing, and standard products coming out of the laboratory. More of it is to evoke the rock that has been sharpened in the mountain stream, and it is more like a product of nature. It is no longer a cold inorganic product, but an organic substance with a bit of temperature.

In addition to the more vague personal feelings, constant changes in curvature will also bring some more pragmatic optimizations.

The square circular square in the center of Stockholm is an example of ease of traffic and bring comfort.

In addition, Jürg Nänni, the author of the book "Visual Perception", once pointed out that the human retina can process circles much faster than corners. Compared to right angles, rounded objects are easier to recognize by the human eye.

On Apple products, it is not so much the elimination of rounded rectangles, but the truth is that it is eliminating the hard transition. From iOS icons to a series of interactive buttons on iOS and macOS, they have all turned to square circles, which are easier to identify and easier to identify. Concentration is one consideration, and simplicity to eliminate industrial sense is another.

After iPhone X, the rounded corners of the iPhone's outer frame fit perfectly with the rounded corners in the system, which is an obvious example of the ecological convergence of Apple's soft and hard designs.

The HomePod's appearance is to use the "square circle" to the extreme, no matter what the angle of the light, it will not produce sharp shadows.

▲ HomePod and various other similar products.

Eliminating industrial traces, bringing consumer electronics products with temperature, and conforming to the design language of software systems, is to allow Apple's recent industrial design to gradually lean toward a "square circle."

With so many benefits, why only appear on Apple products?

Unlike Apple's patent for rounded rectangles, the more ancient square circle is not exclusive. Coupled with the current developed industrial system, it is not difficult to achieve a square-circular transition in products.

Just as the weak processors on the Macintosh were unable to perform floating-point operations in the past, in industrial production, it is necessary to have a strong industrial design control and sufficient cost budget to strictly control the foundry to the finished product. From here, It's not that easy.

The rounded rectangle scraped from iOS 7 has almost become the mainstream presentation form of many systems and interactions. In the hardware, the square-circle transition has not yet appeared in other brands, and the system and hardware are uniformly designed, which is one of the few.

The change in the design language of the new MacBook Pro is a bit like the iPhone X that opened the unification of software and hardware design, and it is also the design language that Apple is constantly improving.

In this process, Apple has also considered sufficient functional requirements, such as the opinions of professional workflow teams, and "settling the chaos" on various interfaces, instead of transitioning to the pursuit of extreme frivolity.

No longer dominated by design, or dominated by function, but to weigh the two, on the one hand, follow the design trend consistent with its own ecology, on the other hand, the functionality will not be compromised for the pursuit of unconstrained design.

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