Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Imitation is Sincerest Form of Flattery … Sometimes

It looks like Apple is suing Samsung for patent and trademark infringement. This isn't the first time Apple has sued other companies for copying the look and feel of their iPhone and iPad devices. And even in the distant past they've sued Microsoft for blatantly copying the look and feel of the Macintosh operating system when Windows came out. (Little do people know but the computer mouse, we all take for granted, was also developed by Apple when there was nothing but a keyboard to interface with the computer.)

Apple has demonstrated that they have a mastery over design and human interaction with their devices and their brand as a company. They seem to understand that their brand is closely related to their product appearance and ease of use. And the brand is more than appearance. It is the whole customer experience.

Most companies only dream of having such integration with their brand. The loyalty Apple endears is envied by many in the tech industry. And the imitation of Apple's current product line is indication that Apple is still doing it well.

But this latest lawsuit highlights a reoccurring issue. How does a company use design to it's advantage? Should they use design to pretty-up their brand and products? Should they use design to successfully imitate what seems to work? Or should design be used to create something new and build an enjoyable brand?

It seems like Apple has decided not to simply ask what works. They are asking what is possible. Because design is integrated within their entire brand.

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