This is the best case scenario of what happens when you put an artist in charge. Jonathan Ives, apples lead designer and his team obviously has all the confidence of the management brass over at apple. It is obvious because time and time again they put design first. They would argue that there products are so well built that it should be reflected in the design. First this concept was used in the product design, then the product packaging.
Next was a real tangible reformation of their business. If they were to sell devices other then the Mac and a few printers, they needed to have a retail presence. Dangerous, the costs could easily sink a company even on a lean budget. But somehow Apple had the balls to it backwards. Spend big big bucks on stores that reflected a continuation of their design philosophy translated into the retail environment. Clean, Transparent, Metal and Glass. Shiny. But unlike normal tech stores, go ahead, touch it all. No we didn't shut the internet off. We won't ask you to leave. They figured that the best way to promote the 'digital hub' lifestyle of macs and ipods etc, was to let the customers immerse themselves for as long as they wanted. Even now as you visit the NY Soho store it is easy to find people designing flyers, doing homework or web-design. This is not a loss – apple believes the experience to be so validating that if these folk ever do come across a few extra bucks or a regular salary they may decide that designing flyers at their apartment makes a lot more sense, and buy a mac.
This all doesn't take away from the fact that apple is presented with continuous opportunities to be cheap about things, and they still take the high road. They continue to spend a lot of money (the firm in charge of the mall-stores deployment is the same firm the GAP uses) and build a cornerstone network of high-value, well-located apple stores around the world. They keep the numbers on the small side for each market, keeping the stores busy hubs of activity. I think the busy store creates a buzz that people want to buy into?
So now comes the 9 million dollar glass cube. First of all $9 million. wow we are in a construction boom. thats laughable. thats 5120 square feet of glass – that means apple is paying 1757.81 per/foot for glazing and frameless support structure. I can buy this fittings for about $40 each that you would use, and no glass, even thick structural should cost even close to that much.
With that said: the 9 million may pay for itself in the first 9 months. As explained to me once before by a Toys R Us executive, while touring the times square store under construction – the store itself is theoretically worth its frontage in advertising. In Times Square billboards that are around 30 feet by 70 feet can run $1mil a month! This new glass cube sitting not only on prime real estate in NY, but where a lot of wealth walks right by the front door everyday is the equivalent relationship of Toy'R'us to times square. People who visit 5th to go shopping are spending big bucks, or browsing because shopping in designer shops excites them. To put what is essentially a consumer electronic shop among a row of fashion designers entrenches the already stellar reputation that apple shares among the spend-free. So the stores brand value in that location (for a 20 year lease) may easily pay for itself (in intangible numbers) before a single maestro 2 cash register is counted.
I am sure that throughout the history of corporations artists and designers have been fighting with managers and engineers. Very seldom are the artists given the chance to prove the bottom line isn't always the bottom line. Usually when they are given the chance, they have talked themselves or their design group into thinking whatever their selling is so much more wonderful then it is – and it bombs. Jonathan Ives run at Apple and Steve Jobs willingness to let it ride on these concepts has be fruitful so far. As with Cadillac in the 60s when design was king, at some point a manager comes in an starts making compromises and the whole formula falls apart – Until then i am enjoying being a spectator.
a nice gallery is located here