Where Did All The Color Go? */?> Where Did All The Color Go?

Posted by · May 10, 2012 11:03 am

In his first guest post on the EE Tech News Blog, front end developer Jon King discusses why the world of technology is decidedly monochromatic.

Remember the launch of the iMac?  That was a serious game changer for the world of industrial tech design; finally there was color to offset the off-white and cream color dominated world of personal computing.  Apple went all out and claimed use of all three tones, while PCs primarily stuck to black.  Hurray for options! But that was 1998.  So where did this wonderful realization that industrial design tech can be vibrant and functional go?

It seems manufacturers have reverted back to black, white and brushed aluminum,  and color has become an accessory to our accessories. In fact, an entire industry has spawned around personalizing your devices.  Check out the market for phone and tablet cases–there are hundreds of colorful designs out there. Which begs the question:  if color is so popular, why isn’t it making its way back into the assembly line?

The reason is personalization.  It is far easier to personalize something with no personality.  And let’s be honest, most smartphones, laptops and personal computers are lacking in that department. These days, if you are into bedazzling, there is an accessory that you can add to your favorite computing device. Like pink and purple flowers? You got it!  But since the majority of consumers out there don’t want a unicorn themed computer sitting in their home,  manufacturers are reticent to ‘jump the shark’ and try to outdo their competition while overdoing their design in the process.

So will we ever see a mainstream resurgence of color into our products?  Not likely.  The industry focus has shifted to colorful applications and device usability rather than colorful industrial designs.  It seems easier to allow the end user to continue to personalize their devices as they see fit rather than design with color in mind.

There are a few exceptions of course.  The iPod Nano and the iPod shuffle have been successful in using color.  I attribute this success to their size, and intended use.  Devices meant for active use can easily incorporate color into their design.  This ensures the device stands out, which is important when working at such a small scale.

There are a few phones out there that have color options (AT&T’s Cyan Blue Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone 8 comes to mind), but when compared to the heavy hitters, Apple and Samsung, the options just aren’t there.  And forget about desktop computers.  Your best options are overly aggressive back lighting on gaming PCs or the simplistic Apple designs…which tend to look good wherever they are.