How Apple Invented the Zero Margin Grid

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How Apple Invented the Zero Margin Grid: A blog about how design led to the success of products.

This blog post is a great example of an abstract that sells. It has a good title, it’s on a popular topic, and it’s written by an authoritative source in the industry. The post is also short and contains relevant links.

How Apple Invented the Zero Margin Grid: A blog about how design led to the success of products.**

The post considers one of Apple’s key intangibles – its reputation for design – and discusses how their products have evolved over time to reflect this reputation. Not only does this demonstrate that the author has a good grasp of the subject, but it also makes the article more unique through providing insight into Apple’s design decisions.

The post uses a number of images to illustrate its points, which greatly improves its readability. It also includes references to other articles, which helps convince us of the author’s expertise on the subject.*

“The Grid is like a magic sheet of paper that fixes your options and prevents you from making bad choices.”–David Craib

The words are from David Craib’s book, The Soccer Diaries, but the sentiment could easily have come from an Apple designer.

It’s not a coincidence. Apple designers have been trained to think this way for the last decade. The company has taken the ideas of Swiss design pioneer Josef Müller-Brockmann and codified them into what it calls “the zero-margin grid.”

The zero-margin grid is a device that forces designers to pay attention to each detail on a page, because they can’t take anything for granted. It imposes a discipline on designers to make sure their Web sites are simple and easy to use. It makes sure such things as the design of error messages don’t get overlooked.

I first heard about the zero-margin grid at Apple in early 2006, when I was interviewing for a job there. I had been working at Microsoft on Internet Explorer and related technologies, and I was intrigued by Apple’s design culture. I was sitting in a room with several senior designers talking about how they thought about design problems. They were talking about grids and typography and color theory–all the things

Apple has a long history of design innovation. It’s hard to know where to start, but there are three products that come to mind as having had a particularly large impact on the world: the iPhone, the iMac, and the iPod. All three have been so influential that they have their own Wikipedia entries.

The iPhone defined modern smartphones; the iMac defined modern computers; the iPod defined modern music players. The way we use all three is completely different from how we used them before Apple’s innovations.

This blog post will take you behind the scenes to see how Apple created these products, through an exploration of one small piece of each: The Zero Margin Grid (ZMG) in iOS 7, The “snow” screen in Mac OS X 10.0, and the scroll wheel in iTunes 1.0.

A great design is invisible, because it’s obvious. It does its job so well that we don’t even notice it’s doing it, and then we can’t imagine life without it.

The most famous example of such a design is the zero-margin grid. It’s what makes Apple products feel instantly comfortable and familiar to use, even though they contain a dizzying array of innovations.

The zero-margin grid was invented by Apple in 2001 and released with the G4 Cube, the first computer with an all-in-one design. Since then, it has become the default way to lay out a screen full of information: elements are placed at regular intervals within a set area, without any margins between them.**

** What is the zero-margin grid?**

It’s the way you arrange things on your computer, tablet or phone screen. The elements are all lined up with no space between them. They might be words, or photos or buttons or other images. But they’re all squished together. If you’re reading this article on a computer right now, you’ve already seen it hundreds of times today, since everything you’re looking at right now has been designed using this technique.

So, the question is: How did Jobs and his team reach this point? Obviously there’s no formula. But we can separate and focus on three factors that are crucial to the success of a project: design, technology and marketing.

In another post, I described how Steve Jobs was able to focus the design of Apple products on a few key details. This is what he told Jonathan Ive, head of design at Apple:

Focus. Focus. Focus.

The three things that matter most on a phone are the following: making a call, getting the Internet, and having a great camera. Everything else you’re going to do on this device is not as important. Not as important!

So don’t try to do everything. Pick one thing and make the best f

Design can be a verb or a noun. As a noun, it’s the art of making things look good. As a verb, it’s the process of creating a design.

The decision about whether to frame design as a noun or a verb is important — not just because it affects how we talk about design, but also because that framing influences how we think about design.

Treating design as a noun suggests that it is something you either have or don’t have — like eye color. If you’re born with poor eyesight, there’s not much you can do about it. But if your eyes are healthy and you learn how to use them, you can be an outstanding designer no matter what your field. If you treat design as a verb, however, then the focus is on applying design skills to solve problems — which means that you need to learn those skills in order to improve your ability to solve problems. Either way, you’re thinking about design in terms of skill acquisition rather than innate talent.

But there’s another consequence of framing design as a noun or a verb: When we talk about “design” and “designers,” we tend to focus on the former and overlook the latter. That makes sense when we’re talking about the art of making

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