Apple is 40 – what has the company achieved so far?

As the tech giant enters its fifth decade, designers tell us what they think is its greatest achievement so far.

Jamie Ellul, Creative Director, Supple Studio

“I think Apple’s biggest achievement has to be putting design at the heart of all they do. Ever since it enlisted Jonny Ive to design the first iMac, it has shown how design thinking can permeate every single strand of its business.

Why should a PC be a grey box? Why should a phone have a keyboard? It has constantly questioned convention.

From the products to the user experience to the advertising (remember how iconic that iPod campaign with the silhouettes was in 2003?) to the shopping experience – it’s all carefully and strategically designed.

So much so it’s now become a cliché – I’ve lost track of the number of clients’ briefs I’ve received that have Apple in there as a reference to a brand they aspire to be like.

Apple has transformed a company which made a grey box for designers and musicians into one with a portfolio of tech devices that are affordable luxury – aspirational items that people are proud to own whatever walk of life they’re from. It has designed its own success.”


Nicolas Roope, founder and creative director, Poke
Nicolas Roope, founder and creative director, Poke

“Apple showed the world that design could be a central tenet of a meteoric business success. It proved that robust, sophisticated design thinking AND craft was a potent means to scale a technological business.

It leaves no-one in any doubt about the power of design to inspire and even dominate markets when new models, new concepts and new behaviours are required to embed new technologies in the lives of consumers. The company is a defining legend of our times and one of design’s greatest case studies.”



Matt Wade, director, Kin Design
Matt Wade, director, Kin Design

“I was going to write something about metaphor in UI design, but Apple’s biggest achievement is probably constant reinvention.

If someone had told me in 1996 when I bought my first Apple product that one day it would be the richest company in the world, I’m not sure I’d have believed them.

If someone had told me in 1998 that a computer company would lead the debate around industrial and product design then I wouldn’t have believed them.

If someone had told me in 2001 that Apple would change the music industry I’m not sure I’d have believed them.

If someone had told me only a couple of years ago that one day I’d be really bored by Apple I probably wouldn’t have believed them either.”


Tess Wicksteed, strategy partner, Here Design
Tess Wicksteed, strategy partner, Here Design

“Did Apple usher in a new utopia? An enlightened vision of the future inspired by Californian counter culture arresting the inevitable march of technology towards totalitarian control and dehumanisation?

The original advert haunts me – my child with his blonde hair and bright red shorts harangues me for Apple’s latest piece of kit. Have they made him a revolutionary hero or a gormless 1984 zombie with his mouth open and dust in his slavish eyes?”


Jack Renwick, creative director, Jack Renwick Studio
Jack Renwick, creative director, Jack Renwick Studio


  • The terrifying 1984 TV ad.
  • Colourful iMacs… ‘WTF!… computers don’t need to be beige!’
  • Being brave enough to drop the rainbow logo.
  • Treating every aspect with the utmost attention to detail.
  • Steve Jobs having the foresight to back PIXAR.
  • Still exciting people and remaining relevant.
  • Having the ability to never make headphones that fit my ears.
  • Standing up to the FBI.
  • Always thinking different.
  • Or at least always appearing to think different.
  • The invention of the black polo neck.
  • Getting Scottish people to buy Apples.”
Hide Comments (1)Show Comments (1)
  • Simon Hutton April 7, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    What has Apple ever done for us? Well 40 years of life changing disruptive innovation that proves design does drive growth and profitability.

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