If you have watched the movie "Jobs," you know that design was a big deal to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and the return of design to Apple through the collaboration of Jobs and Jonathan Ive is the achievement that caps the movie (though it's not the story that "Jobs" should have focused on). If you saw the preview ad at the movie for Apple's upcoming Mac Pro, you know that gene lives on despite after Jobs's death.
But there was a time, in the late 1990s, when Apple was making butt-ugly Macs that looks like PCs -- and not good ones. Models like the Performa marked the nadir of design thinking at Apple, a decade after Jobs was forced out. The state of design at Apple was so dire, in fact, that while I was co-executive editor of Macworld, my colleague Arne Hurty, design firm Frogdesign, and I created two radical concepts to inspire Apple to do innovative design again.
Apple was very unhappy about the cover-story project, as you might expect, but it did get us a meeting with Jonathan Ive afterward, in an attempt to show us that design was alive and well at Apple. What we saw were brilliant designs but an Ive who seemed dejected and whose guidance was not heeded. We'll never know for sure if that was Ive's mindset at the time, but a year later, Jobs discovered Ive upon his return to Apple and soon made him his creative partner. A few years later, the candy-colored all-in-one iMacs debuted, rethinking how a computer should look, and the iPod, iPhone, and iPad all followed over the next decade.
Macworld's 1996 laptop Mac concept
Macworld's 1996 desktop Mac concept
This story, "Radical ideas for new Macs from before Steve Jobs returned to Apple," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.