Apple Store 2.0

The Apple Store. I like visiting Apple Stores even if Apple hasn’t announced anything new. I like the experience. The bright, clean, simple interior design. To be more specific the natural color of the simple but bold tables (smaller Apple Stores like the one above don’t have tables in the middle), the symmetrically aligned lighting in the ceiling. the six-to-a-table display of iPhones and Macs so you can comfortably take them for a spin, etc. I’m sure there are many other less obvious reasons that make visiting an Apple Store pleasant, but one thing is clear: millions like visiting Apple Stores. But that doesn’t mean the experience can’t be improved.

I’m not an architect nor am I an interior designer, but I am a UX designer. I try to make logical sense of what I am feeling, especially as the result of seeing something. One area of the Apple Store experience I’d like to focus on are the glass walls. Apple loves to use glass, big ones. I’m sure you know this already, but it is worth sharing again: Apple spent a lot of money replacing the glass panels at its Fifth Avenue cubed store. The original design used 90 glass panels; Apple replaced them with 15 larger ones, for a simpler more seamless visual experience. (Source: TNW)

Glass is probably the most minimalistic material to use as a wall: there is a wall, but it is almost invisible. The experience of looking at or through a large glass wall is refreshing, freeing. I like that experience.

Apple does marketing right, most of the time, and makes good use of all that glass. I remember when Apple used a bunch of colorful balls to showcase the colorfulness of the iPhone 5c. Check out 9to5 Mac to see what I’m talking about. By the way I think the iPhone 5c embodies Apple’s focus on simplicity the best among all the iPhones. Just look at how many broken lines there are. There are no antenna lines. The plastic body is seamless. The white one with a completely black front face enveloped by white is the best in my opinion. Anyway, just thought I’d reminisce a bit. Back to Apple marketing: Apple makes good use of all that glass. When I look at those installations I can’t but think there must be a better experience that showcases Apple’s focus on simplicity and elegance.

Allow me to share an idea: transparent digital glass. This idea isn’t new. Search on YouTube and you’ll find a lot of examples, but many have non-transparent structure behind them. I don’t think Apple would go for that kind of visual experience. Instead search for transparent OLED. Now imagine the glass walls being replaced with transparent — actually it’s 80-90%+ transparency — high-resolution OLED display walls.

Go back to those transparent display glass examples on YouTube and you’ll find many if not all of them overdo it. All of them blast you with big bold blinking text, fast animations, etc. That’s not my style nor is it Apple’s. Several weeks ago I visited the Apple Store at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California. When you enter the store a huge display wall greets you. I believe Apple used a bunch of Christie MicroTiles for that display. The resolution isn’t that great, but what was great was how the content was shown: large photos of Apple’s products slowly animated across the large screen. Those animated photos gave you time to soak in all the little design details. That’s the type of marketing pieces I’m thinking of for the transparent OLED display walls: slow-moving, amazingly detailed, photos of Apple’s products. You can see a very simple example below (without the slow-moving part):

I don’t exactly know when such large transparent OLED displays will become affordable — not that Apple can’t afford whatever it wants — but such an installation at Apple Stores would bring a more cohesive experience with the rest of the store: technology that is simply and elegantly designed to have a positive impact on your life.