Apple, Why Are You Screwing Artists?

Soccer Mom > Artist

The Preface
I’ve never complained on the internet quite as extensively, so I’ll make sure I don’t hold back, while still (hopefully) preserving grammatical, intelligent, and respectable integrity. I’d rather call this a plea, because I hate trolls. I realize that the size of this entry is exhaustive, but if you have a passion or curiosity for Apple products, I think that you will find yourself at the end of the post in no time. Either through captivating writing (complete sarcasm), or through an unquenchable fire of rage towards me. Either way, I hope that it’s worth the 5-10 minute glance. I’d like to become a more humble exhibitionist. I’m not there, but how humble would I actually be if I felt like I could say that in the first place?

My Apple Store Visit
About three weeks ago, I found myself inside of the Apple Store in Center City. I couldn’t think of a better way to inaugurate myself into the city of Philadelphia than to go there. It had just opened and one of my friends from my art school (a fellow graphic designer) just finished enduring her 100 hours of Apple Store employee training so that she could serve reluctantly-loyal Apple tech enthusiasts such as myself. I say reluctant because anything socially trendy seems to fall under an overabundance of criticism, which makes people question their brand-loyal purchases.

Because Apple’s success has been consistently built upon technical and aesthetic excellence and contagious functional hardware innovation, (island keys, click trackpads, laptops with integrated webcams, light-variable backlighting sensors, and a chrome trim on every bar-shaped smartphone) I have no insecurity in exposing my praise for the company. I was also an avid user of the hardware before the Intel-boom in 2006 (I discovered the wonders of movie creation, Flash and graphic design on a G4 Pro tower in 2002), so I have no reason to feel very “hip” about it. I think “pretentious” is probably a better word since I’ve been grandfathered into a product line that the rest of America is only recently catching onto. I don’t even have a right to be very pretentious about it because it was my high school academy that put the product in front of my face and introduced it to me as “the machine for creation.” I wasn’t an Apple kid from very young. I was a PC gamer and perpetual Windows tweaker. It all slowly, but surely changed.

This is a good tangent that I’ve found myself in actually. It lays a good foundation for the remainder of my Apple Store anecdote. I stepped in the store with 2 technical questions. The first had to do with my eligibility for an iPhone upgrade and the second had to do with professional-level Apple Software and the Logic Board on my MacBook Pro. I was standing inside of the beautiful work of modern architecture, adorned in misted glass, Balsa wood, and brushed aluminum, and I caught myself doing something that I never realized I had to do before; It was something I often do at Best Buy or RadioShack (“The Shack” for people born 1.5 years ago and true “friends” of RadioShack).

I was profiling.

That’s right. I was looking around at the Apple Store workers, discerning – based on the way they dressed themselves, their hand motions when they spoke, and the level of confidence in their answers – if they were capable of helping me or even understanding the nature of any of my questions. I had technical questions and I wasn’t sure if 65% of the Apple Store employees would be equipped to answer any of them.

This is a catastrophic deal.

You Can’t Trust Everyone in the Apple Store Anymore
The reason I profiled was because I needed to. I needed to spot out the geek amongst the workers because – to put it plainly – a lot of the people whom Apple is hiring are just glorified iPod fanatics with a nice lanyard. I don’t mean to sound like a pretentious jerk. It honestly makes sense why this is the situation; the demand is high, therefore, we can’t be picky. But part of the excellence that I never truly noticed or appreciated until now was my on-site Apple store experience.

Not too long ago I could walk inside of an Apple Store with one question, approach a non-Genius Bar employee with it, and without much effort it would turn into a thorough, educational, and enlightening conversation filled with tips, personal experiences, and sometimes an exchange of emails. Apple users could be referred to as a cult at one point in time because the tight-knit, pseudo-family environment was almost undeniable.

That tatted up white dude with dreadlocks could answer my question about iMovie (’08. ’09 was significantly less inspiring and less of a gateway drug to Final Cut Pro). He could not only answer my question, but he could take me over to a display computer, and walk me through some of his personal methods. We could argue about this-and-that if need be. I was obviously significantly younger – and significantly dumber – than he was, but it didn’t matter. Most of the people in the store were there because they loved their Macs and because they used their Macs to the fullest in whatever they did. They were artists with their machines and the ethos exuded from that store at one point in time.

Some of Apple Has Died
I think that it died a little over 2 years ago. Now that same inked caucasian Rastafarian was more than likely hired because he looked cool, eclectic, and artistic, but still doesn’t know that you can add and remove application icons from your Dock, or that you don’t download AIM for Mac and place it on the left side of your desktop like you did in XP because iChat comes preloaded and has an AIM client.

Again, I understand that this had to happen. I love new adopters. Let me clarify: I love people who know what they’re getting into. I love people who know what they’re doing: people who understand the technological and workflow benefits of switching. I even love people who just love good hardware design! There’s a place for that too. The reality is that the pool of users is so much larger than artists now. Soccer moms are getting into the mix. It’s fine. It’s just now we’re forced to mingle with the universal geek community of Android fanboys who think they’re Albert Einstein’s holy chosen people. Some of those users are just as dumb. They’re not photographers nor developers, yet they praise their platform for the amount of megapixels in a camera (despite the ever-present chromatic aberration and ISO grain) and the “openness” (which is used ambiguously and has recently been a nest of malware).

Apple is a Business, Which is Fine.
I’m not mad that the store changed. That’s politics. Apple is in business to make money. This is a fine thesis for any business really. They’re cashing in and they deserve it. The store is where they sell, so it makes sense that the dynamic would change. The Apple website was a place where I could read articles on late and great influential designers and the way in which they milk their Apple product for great work. There were lots of helpful design tips and lofty explanations on how their PowerPC processors really do a number on Adobe and Apple software. Though a lot of it went over my head when I was younger, I was still so fascinated by it. Things like Apple Motion, though completely foreign at the time, were looking like great products to get into, and all because of the artist resources that were made available for the community.

Apple’s Website: Proof That Artists are Dead to Them
Go to the Apple website now and browse around those resource sections. I just went on there today and grabbed some image clippings of what’s on there.

What the hell is this? These articles are at least 4 years old! (I read them 4 years ago) At least remove them if you’re going to ditch the creative group that kept your company alive, supported, and well funded. Look at the window GUI! This has to be from Tiger. That’s 2 OS’s ago! I don’t understand how artists can build this site and overlook the lack of love being reciprocated right now.

I don’t mind Soccer Mom joining our family. But we’ve been left in the dust for her.

Apple’s good thing was always usability. This has consistently been their upper hand. They have (had?) a way of pre-chewing our food for us that was never condescending. At one point, they had the least amount of fragmentation in any hardware line:

Apple's Best Product Line

Are you a light or average consumer? Buy our iMac (desktop) or our MacBook (laptop), both marked by a friendly, glossy marble shell. Are you a professional user looking for power? Buy our Mac Pro (desktop) or our MacBook Pro (laptop), both marked by a rugged, brushed aluminum form factor. That’s it. Simple.

The OS was cohesive enough and the Apple Store always offered one-on-one time for tutoring or free public tutorials. Everything was integrated. In Apple’s case, the hardware company designed the software, and they truly took advantage of their upper hand in that.

I’m holding back from being overly technical and analytical right now because I don’t want to lose grasp of my point, nor lose the reader (you). It feels a bit odd cutting corners in my explanations and assessments of all that Apple has been doing, marketing and design wise. There has truly been so much going on at Infinite Loop that one could and should be wowed by.

Apple Has Adopted a New Definition of Accessibility & Usability
My point in mentioning Apple’s strong point in usability is that it has been warped. Apple once used their master expertise to pull the timid, young geek/artist-in-training out of their head and into creative/production software through apps with amazing UI and consistent, intuitive, and powerful tools. It has been warped from this into pulling Joe the I-Could-Care-Less-About-Art-I-Just-Want-A-Pretty-Home-Video-And-That’s-It out of his unproductive crap-cave so that he can drag and drop a couple of random videos from his trip to Niagara falls according to a predetermined, vanilla, formulated script (Do you hear me, iMovie ’11?) and pride himself in a 99.9% automated process. Why would he ever upgrade to Final Cut Pro later? He’s no less of a lazy-ass than when he booted up iMovie ’11 for the first time.

Here’s the problem: There’s nothing to discover! There’s nothing to experiment with! iLife no longer lures you into wanting to be more creative. It doesn’t tap into the inner artist anymore. It taps into the inner uncommitted couch potato. Apple’s new slogan for their iLife software is “You don’t have to do anything to be an artist!” There’s nothing that even faintly represents what you’re getting into for professional-level software. Thanks, Apple. Good job at toothlessly leaving your hardcore creative supporters in the dust, and then letting their finance and business counterparts ignorantly berate their art profession even more by thinking that a feature length movie editor is doing the same thing in Final Cut that their 9-year-old nephew does on the newly dumbed-down iLife suite.

I don’t want to be misinterpreted; the ease of use is perfect for Joe. He just wants to use iMovie the 1 out of 3 times he actually will in a year for a great, successful documentary of his trip to Greece. It’s great that iMovie has made it so that when he shares this movie with, say, me, I don’t suffer a terrible hour. It does make life more convenient for people who may not be artists. There’s nothing wrong with owning a Mac and not being an artist. At all. But there was a day when Apple found a happy medium between creatives and non-creatives. They offered magic to those with and without creative direction. Artists and, possibly with OS X Lion, power-users have been left by the wayside for something that’s ultimately good and should be inclusive for even experienced users: accessibility. Wanna make OS X like an iPad? Sure. I get it. Accessibility. But did you lock those who found their own way around access out of it all?


1 Comment

Filed under Frustration, Geekery

One response to “Apple, Why Are You Screwing Artists?

  1. Stewart Mitchell

    Interesting read. I’m writing an article for a computer magazine in the UK looking at the way a few art and design professionals are beginning to feel let down by Apple. Some have even said they are considering moving to Windows machines.

    Would you be willing to have a chat to discuss? Happy to call at your convenience.


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