2001 Annual Design Review Consumer Products Best of Category

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mac g4 cube

Jurors deemed Apple’s cubist masterpiece “a celebration of design.” Here’s a brand that reinvents style with finesse while never letting its functional muscle go soft. “Coming on the heels of the iMac, the g4 Cube is Apple’s way of reining in its own exuberance. They’ve used elements of their own retro vocabulary to create a refined, classic translucence without sacrificing legibility,” Yelavich said.

The minimalist cube is more demure than its immediate predecessors but hasn’t lost their humor and whimsy. The computer’s crystalline casing, Yelavich surmised, is campily reminiscent of ’60s Lucite. From above, the processor, with its vertical cd drive, looks like a Space Age toaster.Beyond cosmetics, the g4 cube is a feat in engineering, considering it’s less than a quarter of the size of most pcs. The elevated processor puts the machine’s hottest components near an air passage in the center of the cube, allowing them to be cooled via natural convection in lieu of the standard noisy fan.

Meanwhile, the cube’s accessories are equally meticulous in their construction-from the space-saving Apple Pro keyboard with full-size keys, to the flat-screen Studio Display. The Apple Pro mouse comes as a clear, polycarbonate bubble, the entire top of which is ergonomically clickable. “The whole package is an object of desire,” Schiefer said. “There’s continuity in every logo, every screw, every cable and connector.”

What inspired the G4’s anti-establishment design?Jonathan Ive (Apple’s vice president of industrial design): We wanted to make the cube quiet, not only acoustically but also visually. We also defined a hierarchy of access; the optical drive and status indicator are on the top surface. Less frequently used connectors are on the base to take up the least amount of room and also avoid defining a front and back for the product. The single resin shell suspends and protects the technological core of the product.

Did form follow function in this case?The functional requirements, including cooling, access to internal components and cable management, led to the development of a vertical orientation; cds eject vertically, the product is cooled by air traveling vertically, the access and entire assembly is based upon the vertical axis. The hottest components are positioned adjacent to the heat sink running through the center of the cube. Suspending the core allows cool air to enter through the base. This architecture allows the product to be small, stable and cool with natural convection.

How is the mouse’s optical technology superior to traditional mechanical design? Any mouse determines the x/y coordinates of motion and passes them to the operating system to indicate cursor movement. A mechanical mouse measures these differences using a ball and mechanical rollers. The optical mouse measures differences in movement using an led for illumination, a lens to focus the illuminated area, a camera to acquire sequential microscopic pictures of that illuminated area and an on-board digital signal processor (dsp) to determine the direction and distance of motion.

client/company: Apple Computer Inc., Cupertino, Calif. in-house design Apple Industrial Design, Cupertino, Calif. materials/fabrication: injection-molded, metal stamping and forming, silk-screening, die casting, screw machininghardware/ software: Alias|Wavefront Studio