Sunday, May 20, 2012

Upside Down Apple Logo

Update, May 22, 2012: CNN published an article about this blog post. 

Sometimes, even the science and studies can be wrong. Not because of an error, but because you didn't dig deep enough.

About a dozen years ago we had some discussions at Apple about the placement of the logo on the back of Apple's laptops. As you can see in this Sex and the City scene, the Apple logo is upside down when the lid is opened.

Apple has an internal system called Can We Talk? where any employee can raise questions on most any subject. So we asked, "Why is the Apple logo upside down on laptops when the lid is open?"

We were told by the Apple design group, which takes human interface issues very seriously, that they had studied the placement of the logo and discovered a problem. If the Apple logo was placed such that it was right side up when the lid was opened then it ended up being upside down when the lid was closed, from the point of view of the user. (If you're currently using an Apple laptop made in the past eight years then close the lid and you'll see that the Apple logo will be upside down from your point of view, but right side up when opened)

Why was upside down from the user's perspective an issue? Because the design group noticed that users constantly tried to open the laptop from the wrong end. Steve Jobs always focused on providing the best possible user experience and believed that it was more important to satisfy the user than the onlooker.

Obviously, after a few years, Steve reversed his decision.

Opening a laptop from the wrong end is a self-correcting problem that only lasts a few seconds. However, viewing the upside logo is a problem that lasts indefinitely.

34 comments:

Arkadiusz Dymalski said...

Does it mean that marketing/brand image is more important for Apple than user experience? ;)

Kevin said...

Except the first PowerBooks (with the upside-down logo) were made before Jobs came back...

Unknown said...

I think the first PowerBook with the large white Apple logo was the PowerBook G3, released in 1998 after Steve was back.

nanitous said...

I'm sorry to say that I own a MBP now for 3 years and still find my self opening the MBP at the wrong side because of the logo.

Why do I need to feel each time that little tinge of gnawing frustration when I discover for the umpteenth time that I opened the MBP the wrong way?

The modern logo is now a subtle source of irration, rather then a friendly hint to open a good book and having a good experience.

I'm afraid that the motivation to turn the logo upright to anyone else than then me was sadly not inspired by good user interface design, but by corporate vanity.

Would I decide to turn in my MBP for one with the logo in the old position? Really, I'm not sure I wouldn't.

Tracy Evans said...

Nanitous, I have a Pismo with the logo pointing in your preferred direction that I will be happy to trade with you for that annoying MBP :)

arthurarceomartin said...

agreed! interesting article, lol now that I know I think back and yes I have been constantly trying to open my mac book from the wrong side maybe if I make my self aware of this each time I go to opening my mac I will be able to undo this habit as we tend do this on an unconscious level and in order to correct things we do on an unconscious level we need to first be aware of them..and yes it's has everything to do about marketing, I tend to er towards efficiency but it does look good! so would I trade it in you ask? Maybe not as I like beautiful things.

Massimo Fiorentino said...

When they switched, I constantly tried to open my MacBook by the hinges...

vintner said...

The best solution is to have the logo orient itself correctly (apart from changing over to a symmetrical logo).

Apple can have a small e-ink display showing the logo and with the help of an orientation sensor, they can redraw the logo with the right orientation.

This way, the logo will never be upside down.

Should I patent this before Apple reads this blog and copies my idea ??

Jonathan said...

If you take less then a second. There are at least a few ways you can never have the problem of opening your MB/MBA/MBP from the wrong end… black hinge… port locations… your sense of touch… shape of the device… Hope that's helpful.

PlasmicSteve said...

Vintner, I was thinking the same thing, but by placing the logo on a rotating circular plate.

Unknown said...

I don't look at the logo before opening it, I look at the edge. There's a notch in the fron next to the trackpad where you put your thumb when opening it. It it's not there, I turn it around.

Eric Weiss said...

That about sums how I feel about Apple. It's not about the end user (the person fumbling to open their laptop). Instead it's all about appearances (advertising the corporate logo to everyone else).

Stop Crying said...

Its Amazing people are complaining about their lack of common sense. How many times does it take for you to realize if the logo is facing away from you its the proper end. Quit blaming Apple for you short comings.

I type this as I stare at an upside-down logo (the notebook it docked and closed) on a Dell computer at work. Pretty sure if you look at whatever notebook/laptop you are using its the same thing. So do you "hate" the lack of end-user appreciation the computer you're using provides as well? If the logo was the other way people would complain about that too. "Oh my, my Ice Cream is cold!!"

USE YOU BRAIN NOT THE LOGO.

Scott Wilkins said...

Doesn't matter what laptop I open, I don't use the logo for the indicator, but rather than latch or hinge. Are Apple users really this inept? Oh wait, they are Apple users after all.

Scott Wilkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lazo said...

but this was the case from the beginning, take a look at the very first Apple II carry bag. Even back in 1978 Steve Jobs had the user experience in mind.

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1329029

lazo said...
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lazo said...
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Ken Davidson said...

Redesign the logo so it has rotational symmetry. Go on Apple, I dare you ;)

Ramez said...

I think that opening a laptop, no matter what the brand is, appeals more to common sense than logo positioning. When I open my laptop, i look for the hinges so i know what side to open.

Besides, since the laptop market is a lot about marketing and advertisement, i think i would like people to know that i am using a MBP, and not some poorly designed laptop with an upsidedown logo when i open the lid.

Patrick said...

I've never had an issue with this, and it seems strange to me that some people would think an upside down logo while in use would be correct.

On modern Macbooks there is a black stripe on the back to allow better wireless signals. That's how you know the butt end of the device. You can feel it without even looking, but if you need to look, it's pretty clear.

Now that Apple doesn't make plastic laptops, it's much easier to tell which is the correct end to open your laptop. Also, Apple's Air lines laptops are wedges, which gives another tactile nod to the proper way to open the device.

~Pat
www.interchangeproject.org

Unknown said...

Anyone who uses the logo to decide how to open a laptop:

If your laptop had no logo on it, would you be at a loss trying to figure out how to open it?

A laptop is two pieces connected by a hinge. One end has the hinge, and the other end has a notch or button for separating the two pieces. Clearly the best place to look to decide how to open it is the middle of the top surface.

It has been over a decade since the logo switched from one orientation to the other. If you're still going by the orientation of over a decade ago, the problem is not your laptop. If you're still "fumbling to open your laptop" after a week of owning it, the problem is not your laptop. You probably don't even know how to work your laptop anymore, since a lot has changed in the last decade, and you don't seem to keep up.

In fact, I would guess that you have trouble hanging up your iPhone because it doesn't have a cradle for you to place it into when you're done.

As for people making snarky jokes about Apple caring more about marketing than users, it actually makes a lot more sense for the logo to be properly displayed when the product is in use rather than when it is shut off. Like, if you have artwork on your shirt or baseball cap, which makes more sense? For it to be right-reading when people look at you, or for it to be reversed so it looks right when you look at yourself in a mirror?

Does any laptop have the logo "right side up" when closed anymore? So it's not only Apple that does it,is it?

Chad said...

Can someone please help me open my laptop? I put it upside-down like you wiz kids said, and now every time I open it, it just snaps shut on its own. Why would anyone put the screen on the bottom and the keyboard on top?!?! It hurt my fingers and now my RSI is really going to flare up. My glasses are getting foggy and my back hurts. Apple really are a bunch of profit mongering jerks who only care about vanity and don't care about user experience. My nephew Mark Shuttleworth told me that this is the year of desktop Linux and I'm looking forward to throwing this cheaply made piece of trash away and getting a proper computer, like an Asus EEEEEBook Transformer 2 Prime Legend of Zelda with Ubuntu. Then I can finally write the great American novel, NO THANKS TO APPLE!!

Jason Stanley said...

@Ken Davidson

Oddly enough Sony actually did that for the PS2. They enabled the PlayStation logo to turn so facing the right way up depending on which way you placed the console.

CameronPalmer said...

Oversimplification. I've never think about how to open my Macbook Pro and I never get it wrong by accident. First, I'm never hovering over my laptop like some sort of computing fruit bat. The visual cues are the hinges on the back, and the recess and lights at the front which are immediately visible upon removal from the bag or when sitting on a desk or your lap. Not to forget mentioning the apple being upside down seems natural at this point.

I wonder if there is a correlation between people that can't manage to open their laptop and reversed scroll direction issues in Lion?

Steven said...

tapered macbook air solved that problem since the feel /design of the object leads the user to open it correctly.

Red said...

I've just closed the lid of my Sony Vaio laptop and noticed that it is also written upsaid-down, but I dont remember if I ever tryed to open it from the wrong side ...

Rick said...

Right now I am wearing a Boston Red Sox T-shirt. Oh no! If I look down at it it is upside down to me. But to everyone else it is right side up! Maybe the Red Sox should print their T-shirts the other way, so whenever I look at it it is right side up.

Strangely, I had no problem figuring out which end to put over my head first. That's because I thought to look for the operational part of it, rather than the logo. Weird concept, I guess.

Mickey said...

Almost all of Apple's portable devices were this way right from the start. It wasn't until the PowerBook G4 Titanium that Apple changed the orientation of the logo. If you look back at the rainbow-colored PowerBook series (G3 Kanga and earlier before the Wallstreet/Lombard/Pismo editions), the logos are all oriented right-side up to the user.

Jim Epler said...

Taking a few seconds to look for the hinge and lip is a seemingly simple solution. However, this approach requires you to lift and rotate the device slightly and/or tilt to an angle to see where the hinges are (or are not) located. Taking the time to do this might not seem like much of inconvenience to a branding designer, but it can be frustrating if your job requires you to service multiple generations and brands of laptops. Ask any computer service technician who works in a school district if they wish laptop logo orientation was standardized and consistent. As Donald Norman first pointed out in the late '80's, branding always trumps user friendliness, not just in laptop design, but in pretty much every physical object we interact with on a daily basis.

Doremon said...

Maybe I misunderstood the post wording, but did it really take a "study" to realize that "If the Apple logo was placed such that it was right side up when the lid was opened then it ended up being upside down when the lid was closed, from the point of view of the user"?

Isn't that just obvious?

Lisa Ray said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Xander Lawson said...

I really don't get how this can be an issue. No matter if the logo is flipped or how many cute macbook pro decal stickers there are, at the end of the day, it's still a mac.

Farham Erikson said...

One must really take an ample time to think about getting a gadget. Buying from the best online computer store might assure you of getting a good deal but it all boils down to the degree of need that you'll have for it. After all, it's just a logo, what's more important is the functionality.