Apple VP of industrial design details MacBook Air overhaul

Posted:
in macOS
Apple's design chief has detailed how the company went about redesigning the M2-equipped MacBook Air, as well as other tidbits about the device.

MacBook Air
MacBook Air


Evans Hankey, the company's vice president of industrial design, recently spoke with GQ Magazine UK about topics ranging from the MacBook Air's careful design, what inspired one of its new colors, and how the svelte laptop has always been "provocative."

"It has always been a product where it's a bit provocative," Hankey said. "The first MacBook Air started in the studio when we put display housings together from what I guess would have been the PowerBook at the time."

A decade and a half about late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino company went about redesigning the MacBook Air. For one, it was no small feat, since the model is the company's best-selling Mac portable

"I think the Air requires a lot of courage, because it's like, 'What are you going to keep?'" Hankey said.

That courage translated to a meticulous overhaul of the MacBook Air that involved a lot of collaboration between Hankey and her colleagues on Apple's design team.

For example, the MacBook Air's components are packed together so tightly within its tiny frame -- a task that involved creating a spreadsheet for every single part's intended size. The team routinely measured its center of gravity so that it didn't stray too far left or right.

Despite the attention to detail that went into the device, Hankey said that the outcome was always intended to be simple.

"We don't really have to play any kind of games with shape or form to make it look thin," she said. "And I think that's one of the most lovely and remarkable things: it's quite honest and simple."

Beyond the technicality of the redesign, Hankey also highlighted how the MacBook Air kept its personality. While the wedge-shape frame is gone, the model now sports a variety of colors -- including the Basalt hue that's "much-loved" by Apple's design team.

"So that one came from the volcanic rock Basalt," Hankey said. "Do you know this rock? My dad was a geologist."

And while the MacBook Air looks quite different from the MacBook Pro, Hankey said that neither device was designed in a vacuum. She said that this "was the first time we ever set out to do a family of products together."

Since Apple design chief Jony Ive left the company, Hankey took charge -- and has been responsible for the look and feel of Apple products since.

The full interview, which also features some of Hankey's colleagues, is available on GQ's website.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    I highly disagree with adding an SD card when they could have added an extra USB port. Why please 2% of your users when you can have pleased 98%? This is Apple
    going backwards post-Jony.

    You can always find a USB-C to SD adapter but try to find an SD Card to USB-C Cable.
    williamlondonzeus423sphericgrandact73
  • Reply 2 of 23
    bsimpsenbsimpsen Posts: 376member
    Beats said:
    I highly disagree with adding an SD card when they could have added an extra USB port. Why please 2% of your users when you can have pleased 98%? This is Apple
    going backwards post-Jony.

    You can always find a USB-C to SD adapter but try to find an SD Card to USB-C Cable.
    After years of lugging around a USB SD adapter, I can finally leave it home. I am routinely in the field with my MacBook Pro, a drone, and my camera. I can now move cards between them without hassle. Back at my desk, I need only one USB/Thunderbolt port for my dock.

    I might be in the 2%, but so are 100% of my colleagues.
    williamlondonFileMakerFellerBeatsspock1234d_2
  • Reply 3 of 23
    The Air added an SD card reader? 

    Not going to lie; that new Air is sexy AF. I use a 16" M1 Max as my daily driver but am contemplating getting an Air as a sidekick. Wholly irrational, but that FF and dark blue color are calling me...
    edited July 13 williamlondonspock1234sconosciutowatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 23
    hammeroftruthhammeroftruth Posts: 1,199member
    Beats said:
    I highly disagree with adding an SD card when they could have added an extra USB port. Why please 2% of your users when you can have pleased 98%? This is Apple
    going backwards post-Jony.

    You can always find a USB-C to SD adapter but try to find an SD Card to USB-C Cable.
    You don’t need another USB port now that they brought back MagSafe and have built in hdmi. 
    That freed up two ports. 
    MrBunsidewilliamlondonFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,258member
    Since none of us have seen the teardown, why don’t we wait for it, and then come up with a conclusion?

    There could be some good reasons why you don’t get an SD card slot/extra USB port.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    DuhSesameDuhSesame Posts: 1,258member

    Judging by the “x-ray”, the right side probably have no space left for another port or a card slot.

    I’m thinking the possibility of a 15”, as long the weight/size are still reasonable.
    spock1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    bulk001bulk001 Posts: 709member
    A decade and a half about late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino 

    Should be something like:

    A decade and a half later, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino 

    or even

    About a decade and a half later, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino 
    williamlondonFileMakerFellerMrBunsided_2fred1watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 23
    thttht Posts: 4,613member
    The GQ article is interesting.

    The MBA is lionized as a kind of huge hit, and articles love to talk about the envelope moment, but the 1st generation 2008 MBA was a failure: too expensive, slow, prone to heat, a mish-mash of ports in a tray flap, and a bit of QA mess. It was the 2010 MBA that put everything together into the market changing product it is known for today. SSD only, the ports were your standard USB and SD card, plus the display du jour (miniDP, TB1, TB2), and most importantly, the price came down to the $1000 to $1600 range. All the right features, performance and price.

    The rMB12, which I think was meant to replace the MBA, also failed. It was basically the 2nd or 3rd product in the Ive-design era (as opposed to Jobs-design era or Hankey-design era), depending on how you count. It's display was too small, the huge pride they had in the butterfly keyboard became a liability, the big gains in Intel perf/Watt with Intel's 10nm that would have made the product more viable never came to fruition, and it was too expensive for its features. Apple never was able to reduce its price.

    The MBA was left to languish during all those rMB12 years until about sometime in early 2017 when the Mac and iPad ship was turned. The big difference was 2 USBC/TB ports and a13" display over the Macbook. Just in time for the pandemic, and the M1 made it the best machine on the market.

    Was really hoping the M2 MBA hit the $1000 price point with 8GB RAM, 256 GB storage as it would have made it a huge hit. With the M1 MBA at $1000 and the M2 MBA at $1200, they are going to split the unit sales, and the M1 MBA could have more sales than the M2 MBA.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    Beats said:
    I highly disagree with adding an SD card when they could have added an extra USB port. Why please 2% of your users when you can have pleased 98%? This is Apple
    going backwards post-Jony.

    You can always find a USB-C to SD adapter but try to find an SD Card to USB-C Cable.
    You are talking about the Pro. Air doesn’t have the SD slot.
    kiowawaspock1234sconosciutosphericfastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    charlesncharlesn Posts: 335member
    tht said:
    The GQ article is interesting.

    The MBA is lionized as a kind of huge hit, and articles love to talk about the envelope moment, but the 1st generation 2008 MBA was a failure: too expensive, slow, prone to heat, a mish-mash of ports in a tray flap, and a bit of QA mess. It was the 2010 MBA that put everything together into the market changing product it is known for today. SSD only, the ports were your standard USB and SD card, plus the display du jour (miniDP, TB1, TB2), and most importantly, the price came down to the $1000 to $1600 range. All the right features, performance and price.

    The rMB12, which I think was meant to replace the MBA, also failed. It was basically the 2nd or 3rd product in the Ive-design era (as opposed to Jobs-design era or Hankey-design era), depending on how you count. It's display was too small, the huge pride they had in the butterfly keyboard became a liability, the big gains in Intel perf/Watt with Intel's 10nm that would have made the product more viable never came to fruition, and it was too expensive for its features. Apple never was able to reduce its price.

    The MBA was left to languish during all those rMB12 years until about sometime in early 2017 when the Mac and iPad ship was turned. The big difference was 2 USBC/TB ports and a13" display over the Macbook. Just in time for the pandemic, and the M1 made it the best machine on the market.

    Was really hoping the M2 MBA hit the $1000 price point with 8GB RAM, 256 GB storage as it would have made it a huge hit. With the M1 MBA at $1000 and the M2 MBA at $1200, they are going to split the unit sales, and the M1 MBA could have more sales than the M2 MBA.
    Apple has a long history of "failure" when it comes to new product launches that become huge hits. The iPod was dismissed as just another "me, too" MP3 player... the iPad was greeted with utter derision by the tech press as "just a big iPhone" and the gen 1 Apple Watch missed Apple's own sales targets for it. I understand what you mean about MBA gen 1 not being quite ready for primetime, but there is no way to see that product as anything other than a success from day 1. Any "10 Greatest Moments in Consumer Tech" list would feature Steve pulling a laptop out of an envelope in a moment that was as close to pure magic as Apple has ever come. How many product intros can you name that people still talk about 14 years later? 
    roundaboutnowzeus423FileMakerFellerspock1234sconosciutofastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    toddzrxtoddzrx Posts: 244member
    And while the MacBook Air looks quite different from the MacBook Pro, Hankey said that neither device was designed in a vacuum. She said that this "was the first time we ever set out to do a family of products together."”

    Seriously?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 23
    bulk001 said:
    A decade and a half about late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino 

    Should be something like:

    A decade and a half later, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino 

    or even

    About a decade and a half later, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino 
    Probably was meant to be: “A decade and a half after late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino…”
    spock1234watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    am8449am8449 Posts: 376member
    It’s interesting that since Jony left, there’s been no focus on another designer to replace him in keynotes and headlines. 

    Instead, much of the spotlight has gone to Craig, who is an engineer. 

    Maybe this indicates that Apple now prioritizes engineering above design?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    MrBunside said:
    The Air added an SD card reader? 

    Not going to lie; that new Air is sexy AF. I use a 16" M1 Max as my daily driver but am contemplating getting an Air as a sidekick. Wholly irrational, but that FF and dark blue color are calling me...

    Correction, it’s  the Pro. I assumed both got it. But were there 2 separate designers for the Air vs. Pro? That would be strange.

    Assuming the same design team developed the Pro, my comment still stands. People complain about the lack of USB ports and they added a SD Card slot. *facepalm*

    bsimpsen said:
    Beats said:
    I highly disagree with adding an SD card when they could have added an extra USB port. Why please 2% of your users when you can have pleased 98%? This is Apple
    going backwards post-Jony.

    You can always find a USB-C to SD adapter but try to find an SD Card to USB-C Cable.
    After years of lugging around a USB SD adapter, I can finally leave it home. I am routinely in the field with my MacBook Pro, a drone, and my camera. I can now move cards between them without hassle. Back at my desk, I need only one USB/Thunderbolt port for my dock.

    I might be in the 2%, but so are 100% of my colleagues.

    “Lugging around” an SD card reader? Damn, how heavy is that little thing?

    Believe it or not, my colleagues need Floppy Disks sometimes.

    Should Apple remove a USB-C port for a Floppy Drive to please us?

    FU** NO

    We would rather have an extra USB-C port that can do a dozen things INCLUDING use as an external USB Floppy Disk drive.

    Beats said:
    I highly disagree with adding an SD card when they could have added an extra USB port. Why please 2% of your users when you can have pleased 98%? This is Apple
    going backwards post-Jony.

    You can always find a USB-C to SD adapter but try to find an SD Card to USB-C Cable.
    You don’t need another USB port now that they brought back MagSafe and have built in hdmi. 
    That freed up two ports. 

    Again it’s the 2% vs 98% thing. USB-C to HDMI was available day one.

     https://a.co/d/39RUEzK

    So we did lose a USB port. 100% of Macbook owners won’t be using the HDMI port 100% of the time they need a USB-C port. Again I’d say maybe 1-2% will need an HDMI port most of the time.

    Apple could innovate further and make a MagSafe USB C port and give us 3 more ports total.

    I don’t get this logic that we don’t need a USB-C port if it’s replaced by a single-utility port. 
    edited July 14 spheric
  • Reply 15 of 23
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    Reminder: this is a thread about the MacBook Air.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,529member
    With all the talk of balance and center of gravity, I really wish they could have found a way to include at least one TB port on the right side of the new MacBook Air. I never like having all of the expansion ports on one side of the unit. I understand that port location is a non-trivial matter due to internals, but it the improvement in flexibility would be worth it. If Apple product owners made it a requirement the designers and engineers would have figured out a way to make it happen. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    bsimpsen said:
    Beats said:
    I highly disagree with adding an SD card when they could have added an extra USB port. Why please 2% of your users when you can have pleased 98%? This is Apple
    going backwards post-Jony.

    You can always find a USB-C to SD adapter but try to find an SD Card to USB-C Cable.
    After years of lugging around a USB SD adapter, I can finally leave it home. I am routinely in the field with my MacBook Pro, a drone, and my camera. I can now move cards between them without hassle. Back at my desk, I need only one USB/Thunderbolt port for my dock.

    I might be in the 2%, but so are 100% of my colleagues.
    according to many comments I've read here, you and your colleagues are not professionals because you use SD cards *exasperated eyeroll*
    edited July 14 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 18 of 23
    toddzrx said:
    And while the MacBook Air looks quite different from the MacBook Pro, Hankey said that neither device was designed in a vacuum. She said that this "was the first time we ever set out to do a family of products together."”

    Seriously?
    I’ll guess that statement will make more sense after forthcoming revelations from the Apple Silicon roadmap. Thus is absolutely the first time Apple has put together a family of products from the ground up, starting with the family of SoCs and building the family of devices from that. 
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 23
    thttht Posts: 4,613member
    charlesn said:
    tht said:
    The GQ article is interesting.

    The MBA is lionized as a kind of huge hit, and articles love to talk about the envelope moment, but the 1st generation 2008 MBA was a failure: too expensive, slow, prone to heat, a mish-mash of ports in a tray flap, and a bit of QA mess. It was the 2010 MBA that put everything together into the market changing product it is known for today. SSD only, the ports were your standard USB and SD card, plus the display du jour (miniDP, TB1, TB2), and most importantly, the price came down to the $1000 to $1600 range. All the right features, performance and price.

    The rMB12, which I think was meant to replace the MBA, also failed. It was basically the 2nd or 3rd product in the Ive-design era (as opposed to Jobs-design era or Hankey-design era), depending on how you count. It's display was too small, the huge pride they had in the butterfly keyboard became a liability, the big gains in Intel perf/Watt with Intel's 10nm that would have made the product more viable never came to fruition, and it was too expensive for its features. Apple never was able to reduce its price.

    The MBA was left to languish during all those rMB12 years until about sometime in early 2017 when the Mac and iPad ship was turned. The big difference was 2 USBC/TB ports and a13" display over the Macbook. Just in time for the pandemic, and the M1 made it the best machine on the market.

    Was really hoping the M2 MBA hit the $1000 price point with 8GB RAM, 256 GB storage as it would have made it a huge hit. With the M1 MBA at $1000 and the M2 MBA at $1200, they are going to split the unit sales, and the M1 MBA could have more sales than the M2 MBA.
    Apple has a long history of "failure" when it comes to new product launches that become huge hits. The iPod was dismissed as just another "me, too" MP3 player... the iPad was greeted with utter derision by the tech press as "just a big iPhone" and the gen 1 Apple Watch missed Apple's own sales targets for it. I understand what you mean about MBA gen 1 not being quite ready for primetime, but there is no way to see that product as anything other than a success from day 1. Any "10 Greatest Moments in Consumer Tech" list would feature Steve pulling a laptop out of an envelope in a moment that was as close to pure magic as Apple has ever come. How many product intros can you name that people still talk about 14 years later? 
    Perhaps failure is the wrong word, or wasn't put into proper context in my comments. The industrial design language of the MBA, as people perceive it today, is from the 2010 model. If you show people the 2008 MBA and the 2010 MBA, I bet a lot of people will not recognize the 2008 model as an MBA, and a lot of people will think of 2008 model as kind of bulbous. The 2010 MBA industrial design language lasted over 10 years, with clear familial resemblance in the 2015 Macbook and the 2018 Macbook Air models.

    There are a lot of reasons why Apple changed from the 2008 design to the 2010 design, just 2 years later. The 1.8" HDD and the port tray were finicky. The 1.8" HDD and CPU made the machine hot and performance limited. The thickness of the 2008 MBA was 0.76". Then, the initial model had a base SKU cost of $1800 with the 2009 model hitting $1500. So, all these things resulted in not so great sales. Kind of similar to the 2015 MB12. Too expensive for what you got. A failure. So, the 2010 MBA models were a reset of the lineup. Affordable SSDs in 2010 really helped. The new industrial design lasted 10+ years.

    When the media talks about the envelop moment, it's basically a kid of a creation story or a creative mythology of the Macbook Air. They are really talking about the 2010 and subsequent models. I don't think there will be any nostalgia, other than negative ones, for the 2008 to 2009 models, which was what was taken out of the envelope. I think you can argue that it wasn't a failure, that the 2008 models were a 1.0 product that really didn't come to its own until subsequent versions, like the Apple Watch, but to me the industrial design and pricing change too much for typical incremental evolution.

    I'm happy with what Apple has done with the 2022 MBA. They increased the screen size. Not much of an increase, but an increase. The industrial design is fine. The only better thing they could have done is have a SKU at $1000 and retire the 2020 M1 model. They really should have done that.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,270member
     dewme said:
    With all the talk of balance and center of gravity, I really wish they could have found a way to include at least one TB port on the right side of the new MacBook Air. I never like having all of the expansion ports on one side of the unit. I understand that port location is a non-trivial matter due to internals, but it the improvement in flexibility would be worth it. If Apple product owners made it a requirement the designers and engineers would have figured out a way to make it happen. 
    They can't add a third one because the M2 bus bandwidth won't handle it. 
    watto_cobra
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