Apple’s Designers Work Towards Storefront Symmetry

August 29, 2011

There is seemingly no limit to the manipulations that Apple store designers will make to ensure that the various elements of construction are aligned and pleasing to the eye. What looks like a simple retail storefront is actually a carefully designed, measured and constructed assemblage of glass, cement, metal and stone whose edges correspond. One of the best examples of Apple’s design craftiness is the just-opened 4th Street (N. Calif.) store, where the new sidewalk, store window panels and inside stone floor tiles all are dimensioned and positioned to present a symmetrical appearance. In this case, the master element is the stone floor tiles, which are 76 centimeters square (about 30 inches). The glass window panes are then manufactured to a multiple of that dimension. Outside, Apple routinely installs a new sidewalk in front of its street-facing stores. In this case, the sidewalk was made with contraction lines that are also multiple of the stone tile dimension. When all the painstaking design and construction work is finished, passersby and store visitors “see” the effect, but probably don’t realize why the store is so attractive.

This diagram shows how the various elements of an Apple store are arranged to create symmetry and alignment. Click the diagram for a larger view.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Robby Villabona August 30, 2011 at 1709

The Apple logo isn’t symmetrical. I wonder how an obsessive-compulsive designer would feel about that.

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Mark Petereit August 31, 2011 at 0608

It’s brilliant marketing, actually. When everything else is aligned and symmetrical, your eye is naturally drawn to the one thing that is not.

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Kevin K January 12, 2013 at 1940

The obsessive-compulsive designer might think different.

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Luis Masanti August 31, 2011 at 0803

The next step in the analysis is to find where they used the ‘Golden proportion.’
There was an analysis of the new iCloud logo that shows that the circles are in this proportion.
It should be somewhere in this building!

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Aldebaran August 31, 2011 at 0805

And in other news: In an amazing discovery, architects are found to understand geometry! Who knew?!

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Peter September 1, 2011 at 0255

Err… Is this really news? How to make proper detailing?

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Gary September 1, 2011 at 0329

I tend to think of this as “information that a select group of the population might find useful or interesting.” I do know that this site is visited regularly by architectural and design students, and there are also visitors who are simply “info junkies” who are fascinated by everything that Apple does. That’s the neat thing about the Internet—no matter how narrow the scope of a Web site or information, someone will find it interesting or enjoyable.

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MacFan457 September 1, 2011 at 1731

I happen to love these pieces of information. I spent some time looking at one of the other older articles about a document that shows the Apple logo planning and how much it costs (I think it was $10,000 for the back-lit logo).

Why aren’t other companies like Apple?

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dave blevins September 2, 2011 at 1111

Your graphic artist used 2 different vanishing points and the tiles in front of the store don’t line up with the tiles inside ! Nor do the tile lines inside follow any perspective either. Obviously your artist is not a graphic designer of any note.

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Gary September 3, 2011 at 0133

Actually, of no note. Me.

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rk September 6, 2011 at 0707

side walk is sloped away from building for drainage.

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jlsmith September 5, 2011 at 0843

The implication of this post seems to be the extraordinary measures that the Apple takes when designing their physical stores. This is fundamentally misleading. This level of attention to detail, (commonly known as ‘detailing’ in the profession), is a basic feature of any design service that is worthy of the name. If your goal is to provide insight to the design process to those not familiar with it, it would seem useful to describe the process correctly.

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MacFan457 September 5, 2011 at 0932

Apple is known to have one of the best, if not the best, retail store designs in the world. I am no architect or building design professional, but I do know from what I’ve read that Apple takes extraordinary measures to achieve the specific, and in my opinion unbeatable, retail store design.

“Detailing” may be normal in the profession, but Apple takes it to the next level.

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Leonardo September 5, 2011 at 1702
Stephen September 7, 2011 at 0041

Regarding the “golden ratio”, most claims around this are nonsense. There is no evidence to show that people prefer it to other ratios close to 1.5.

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Sebastian September 7, 2011 at 0244

I am an Apple fan but sorry – I don’t see the relevance here. Especially because I don’t think that every Apple store is the same. In countries like mine, Germany, Apple has to rent Space that’s available to them in the inner cities and I highly doubt that the size and shape of the available space is then altered to fit the “design” you outline here. It might very well be, but until I see your proposed scheme evidenced with examples, e.g. pictures of stores all over the world where people took measurements, I’m assuming this is just guesswork.

This is ONE example for symmetries you found in a store. Then you generalize. I don’t like that. I especially don’t like it because to me it seems like numerology. You are hunting for patterns and you found some, the question is if these patterns are used by other stores as well on a regular basis or if this really is something special. The chance is high that it is because this store is in the vicinity of Steve Jobs, but again I need more evidence for the designers goal of symmetries.

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Bobtato September 7, 2011 at 0354

Apple Stores are certainly well designed, but you could give some credit to the architectural profession. If Radio Shack hired any competent architect to design a storefront, they would have this level of detailing too, because that’s what architects do. If Radio Shack hired Jean Nouvel or OMA, they could have an even better store.

What makes Apple stand out is just that they understand the value of design, and they understand why it’s worth letting designers make decisions, even when there’s a cheaper way to do something.

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john smith September 18, 2011 at 2324

It really does not matter about symmetry when the sales staff ignore people who enter the store. I have rejected anything Apple for many years because, back in the 70’s and 80’s, when I entered a store to purchase a computer, I was ignored and after some time (approx 15 minutes) I walked out in disgust.

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zoetmb September 20, 2011 at 1328

“I have rejected anything Apple for many years because, back in the 70′s and 80′s, when I entered a store to purchase a computer, I was ignored and after some time (approx 15 minutes) I walked out in disgust”

Except back in the 70s and 80s, Apple did not own any stores, so you must have been in an independently owned store that happened to sell Apple products. So let me get this straight: you walk into a supermarket to buy Heinz Ketchup, but the cashier is nasty and the store is dirty. So you never buy Heinz Ketchup again from any store? Because that’s your logic.

In fact, one of the reasons why Apple opened their own retail chain is because they were unhappy with the way their products were presented and sold in traditional retail.

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