Two and a half lessons in emotion design (short Apple video)

Watch this for an explanation of how our emotional reactions are designed into the things we buy, in this case Apple products.

“‘What do we want people to feel?’ “joy …  … delight … surprise … love … connection …”

This short video is advertising and self-promotion. Don’t confuse it with an impartial documentary. It is silent on the emotions of those who actually make Apple products in China. Not a lot of joy and love there. The love, or at least attachment’, that Apple users feel isn’t towards each other, it’s towards their iPod, iPhone and iPad and their creator—towards Apple corporation itself.

Note too how the video appropriates ‘intention’ which is central to Buddhist thought (‘right intention‘). (Steve Jobs regarded himself as a Buddhist.) This spiritual quality, the video implies, is now embodied in Apple products and consumed by those who buy and use them.

Is this a good idea?

Designed by Apple in California—Used by the NSA Everywhere

The Brilliance Of Apple’s New Ad Is In Its Subtext (Forbes) Be dazzled by that ‘brilliance’. Read that subtext. Here’s another one:

‘The US National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been harvesting data such as audio, video, photographs, emails, and documents from the internal servers of nine major technology companies, according to a leaked 41-slide security presentation obtained by The Washington Post and The Guardian.’ (Secret program gives NSA, FBI backdoor access to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft data)

ACLU sues US government over metadata surveillance program

Apple, Tim Cook, Obama sued over NSA’s spy program, PRISM

The NSA Files


Apple learns to love Big Brother

In this ‘iconic’ 1984 commercial, the Big Brother of Orwell’s novel 1984 is Big Blue, International Business Machines, IBM, which dominated computer markets then. The projectile hurled through the screen by the female athlete is intended to symbolize the fresh-faced upstart, Apple.

In this 2008 commercial, the Obama campaign depicts Hilary Clinton as Big Brother and the projectile is intended to symbolize the fresh-faced upstart, Obama himself.

In the light of revelations that U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program—including from Apple—it is worth noting how Orwell’s 1984 ends:

Which brings me to this from Right Change. Note who Big Brother is now and who is throwing the projectile:

“War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.”
― George Orwell1984

Top-secret Prism program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook–since 2007.

The Digital Retreat from Tactile Experience

The computer screen is a frame separating two time/spaces, one real, the other unreal, virtual.

The three-dimensional space our attention is immersed in does not, in fact, exist. It is an illusion.

We ‘go to’, via browsers, but we go no where. We are tethered to the screen.

To experience what is on the other side of the screen, the body must remain still.

The 3-D object and the device may be highly mobile, but their users are not. They are highly immobile.

The medieval book was tethered to the table of the medieval library. Now we are tethered to an assortment of computer devices. We are held captive within the frame. (Lev Manovich ‘An Archaeology of a Computer Screen’)

Notice the tendency of people to photograph themselves, with their friends, at places, as if to provide evidence for themselves that they are there. A furious rush from place to place, as if in a desperate rush to accumulate evidence of their existence. ‘I was there. I have proof. Look, that’s me’. (Thich Nhat Hanh)

We ‘snap’ rather than experience. We spend less time looking at them. We could print them, but seldom do. This proof of our existence disappears when the device is turned off.

So many images, vacuous and emotionally blank. Cultural flotsam, signifying nothing.

The very act of shooting and consuming these images is a distraction. At a demonstration, professional photographers photograph demonstrators photographing them. Who is demonstrating? (Charlotte Raven)

We believe that none of this matters because we believe reading (texts, images) is purely a matter for the eyes and their vision. But this belief is mistaken. Reading, being, involves all the body; it is a multi-sensory activity.

It is the iPhone or the iPad that has the emotional experience, not us. These emotions are designed into them by ‘emotional designers‘.

Being Apple

I’ve been using Apple computers since 1984, when the company was in the shadow of IBM. That we were part of a cult was an in-joke that sustained the first generation of users in the face of the dullards who lectured us about how these Macs ‘would never catch on’.

Now Apple is the most lucrative of brands, the idea that it is a cult is not quite so amusing.


Apple Retail. This 5:40 video sets out the philosophy behind the design of Apple’s retail stores. Ron Johnson is its principal narrator. [He’s since departed Apple for J.C. Penney.]

The video seems to have been made for Apple employees. The cult-like fervour of some of the retail employees who work in these temples of consumerism is likely to disturb anyone else (one would hope). You watch and see.

Design: Here is another video about what Apple thinks it is like to work at their top secret headquarters in Cupertino, California, where all are sworn to secrecy. It is, we are told, a recruiting video.

Here’s another one. They all look happy enough. Disturbingly so. We must assume they have found an agreeable work/life balance.

The quasi-religous fervour Apple elicits has attracted the attention of even the staid Forbes, see its explanation of ‘the religious fervour around Apple and Steve Jobs‘. See also the Guardian’s The deification of Steve Jobs is Apple’s greatest marketing triumph to date.

Production: Before we get carried away, consider some other reasons for Apple’s remarkable profitability, Apple’s sweatshop supply chain. The UK’s Daily Mail concurs. Not a lot of high-fiving in Apple’s suppliers’ factories.

Pulling it all together and bringing us down to earth is Naomi Klein on How Corporate Branding has taken over America.

But it is too late.

Now we are all riveted to a computer screen of one kind or another. We look at a screen, not so much at each other. Our body is stationary, but our mind is somewhere else. This is a way of numbing feelings through distraction, not feeling them.

These days, the brand has emotional energy. We don’t consume the brand, the brand consumes us.