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Comments (167) Posted 01.11.08 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Cheryl Towler Weese

Is Apple Soft on Crime?


ipod.jpg

In its now-ubiquitous campaign, the iPod holds the promise of cool: silhouetted figures dance on a colored field, brandishing their sleek white iPods, serving alternatively as dance partners, status symbols and fashion accessories. It's a justifiably celebrated body of work — memorable, beautiful, consistent and seductive.

Or is it?

Since their introduction in 2001, more than 120 million iPods have been sold. Yet Apple reports that it receives a call every 6 minutes reporting a theft. And theft is only part of the problem: recently, a number of gang members tried to steal an iPod from a teenage girl, who responded by calling her mother for help. Once her mother appeared, the gang surrounded the couple, took the iPod, and killed the mother. (More disturbingly, this is only one of multiple recent examples of murder involving iPods in the small urban community of Rochester, New York, which has recently seen a significant increase in crime.)

But here's the real question: could a climbing crime rate and the rise of the iPod be related? Has the iPod's design increased its likelihood of theft, and if so, what role could Apple's designers play in developing solutions?

In the summer of 2007, Apple made Fortune's list of the top ten most admired American companies, scoring first in the category of innovation. Less promisingly, however, the company scored last in the category of social responsibility. It's recently been challenged on precisely this issue by shareholders, by the media, and by no shortage of activists. Criticisms include Apple's reluctance to eliminate toxic chemicals from its manufacturing process; its slow adoption of recycling; and its affiliation with a Chinese supplier who was found in violation of labor laws last year. Consumer watchdog and environmental advocacy groups have mounted protests as well as lawsuits in an effort to force compliance by targeting Apple's bottom line. While the company has usually been prompt in its response to criticism, its attitude on these subjects has been more reactive than proactive.

And what about the surge in reports of iPod-related crime? As early as 2005, iPod thefts were shown to have radically impacted crime data in New York City's subways: iPod-related felonies were up in the first half of that year by 18 percent. A study released this past September by the Urban Institute, a research organization based in Washington D.C., claims that the iPod "is a lightning rod for criminals" and suggests that the crime surge is directly related to their proliferation.

Oddly, in their patent application, Apple confirmed that there is a "serious problem" with iPod theft, and that iPod owners have been seriously injured and murdered. Nevertheless, as of this writing, Apple has yet to develop a widespread form of security for the iPod. To date, the only security device developed by Apple is a screen lock introduced for the fifth-generation iPod, which can hide its controls using a four-digit combination. Other potential solutions include software that would "phone home" once connected to the internet, and tracking software that would require users to log in once connected to iTunes. (Apple itself applied for a new patent last year that wouldn't allow users to recharge their iPod if they couldn't prove the device is theirs, but the company hasn't begun marketing the application.)

But if iPods are targets of theft, isn't the implicit message that iPods are objects of desire? "You can't buy ads that say that; you can't put out press releases that say that," observes David Brooks, a public relations consultant in Bedminster, N.J. "Half of you is cringing, but half is bursting with pride." Other critics lament Apple's lack of social responsibility. Clarke L. Caywood, professor of public relations at Northwestern University, says that Apple should be worried and act the part. "Maybe their product is too visible. The public relations department at Apple ought to be scrambling with the design department."

When desire turns so often to theft and even murder, how can you target, let alone measure the degree of a manufacturer's complicity? In this case, the design of the product is intrinsically connected to its desire, and while Apple's designers deserve credit for creating the most coveted gadget in recent memory, their relationship to this critical social problem remains deeply ambiguous. It's time for them — for all of us — to use our design skills to develop equally innovative solutions to issues of larger human consequence.



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Comments (167)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Is it really the design? Are muggers taking home their new minty colored Nano and thinking "Wow... these corners are amazingly smooth... fits nicely in my pocket... what a great design..."?

Or is it the fact that it is a small and expensive consumer electronic that can be resold on the street? Remember those vans in the alley with guys trying to sell speakers or tape decks on the street? Admittedly, I do not remember this as it was before my time, but if sketch comedy is to be trusted, it happened.

There's a reason that white iPod headphones are called "mug me phones"... the person attached to them probably has $500 worth of tech in their pocket... and probably more in their wallet. Not only that, but they're totally distracted from their surroundings by their music.

People are mugged for what is hot, be it a shoe, a watch, a chain, or a music player. Not because it is well designed, but because it is popular (we all know there's a difference) and can be resold.
Jw
01.11.08 at 03:22

This is the silliest, most navel-gazing article I've ever read on DO.
Matthew Hale
01.11.08 at 03:26

Blame the ipod for the crime increase?
How about blaming the muggers first, their parents (if any is available) second, and so on...?
The thing is that now that almost everybody HAS an ipod, if you get mugged, is it because of the ipod? Or would you get mugged anyway without the ipod and they would take your money and cell phone away...
Or, if I put cheap white earbuds on a cheap mp3 player (not ipod), would I get mugged also? Then why don't they target the ones using their Bose or Sennheiser headphones? Or Etymotic?

Jeez...
Roni
01.11.08 at 03:31

Conversely, I recently heard a story of an acquaintance's mugging where they stole everything (including his sketchbook and earphones) but left him with his Brown Zune.

Hilarious.

Though I don't think anyone is going to start calling MS more socially responsible over this.
Brandon Ferguson
01.11.08 at 03:44

I remember when I was a kid ( I am 25) and people were being beaten up or shot over their Nike Air Jordans.

I guess Nike should make uglier shoes and not have them be expensive, or have a celebrity sponsor? Maybe make it so they fall apart faster? Then maybe those guys wouldn't want those.

Or the what about the mom's in the 80s who would beat each other up to get a Cabbage Patch doll for their children?

Their has been a rise in works of art being stolen.
I guess we shouldn't put as much value on art.

Maybe my wife shouldn't wear a diamond ring because someone might steal it?

Maybe Apple will heed your words and design something like the brown Zune so that it won't be stolen. Or maybe take some cues from Audivox and have some really horrible designs with bad casings and hardware.

Maybe model it after the Ford Taurus...it was ugly and it was one of the least stolen cars.

Wait! Restrict what computers it can be used on even more so that all the designers who want openness can pile on Apple and their "dirty tricks" to keep people in the Apple eco-system.

Maybe its the responsibility of the people who own the products or the people who buy it on the black-market. Maybe their complicity to the aforementioned crimes is the culprit? If their wasn't a black market then their would be no need for the theft except for someone stealing it for themselves.

Maybe the solution is "an iPod for every child"?

Maybe we all need to start taking a little more personal responsibility of ourselves, our families, and our the products we purchase? Maybe we need to pay attention to our surroundings?

I am going with the latter suggestion.

John
01.11.08 at 03:44

This just sounds like sensational journalism in the form of an essay. I agree with Matthew about this being the silliest thing I have read on DO. I expect this type of logic from local television news.
Tony Venne
01.11.08 at 03:51

If all else fails, blame the successful.

Apple's products are expensive, in vogue and ubiquitous because of their design. However it is a fallacy to blame them or thinly veil the suggestion that they uglify their products to deter crime.

Conversely lets hold all the manufactures who don't have the same industrial styling panache responsible for the rise in crime, surely if their products were as desired this iPod crime spree would stand no chance... what a joke.
velk
01.11.08 at 04:02

Yeah, and all that stuff about the environment has been pretty much universally agreed as a desperate ploy for press with little foundation in reality.

What is the point of this article - which basically rehashes a Dateline NBC (or similar) episode from months and months ago?
Kevin
01.11.08 at 04:06

This is the silliest, most navel-gazing article I've ever read on DO.

But, but, but, design can effect social change! It can end world hunger and bring peace to the Middle East! And...and...and...

...oh, nevermind. I agree. This was a pretty vapid post.
john
01.11.08 at 04:20

Wow... What a terrible article.
Matt Hunsberger
01.11.08 at 04:24

Rochester, NY has suffered from crime for years. The murder rate has been higher than DC in its heyday.

It's a little offensive to me that the author seems to be trivializing a very serious crime problem in a very depressed city by blaming the iPod.

It's not a recent occurance.

Drew Pickard
01.11.08 at 04:30

You have to consider the fact that, despite the high risk of ipods getting stolen, most people will still buy them. There is little incentive from a business point of view for Apple to aggressively push security designs on its product.
wl
01.11.08 at 04:40

The answer to the question in the title of this article is no.

Saying the design of the iPod encourages theft is like saying the illustrations on paper money increases theft.

Seems like an unfounded claim to me.
Mike K
01.11.08 at 04:57

No one ever mugged me for my Newton.
plakaboy
01.11.08 at 05:10

This just sounds like sensational journalism

actually, i remember this exact story being on fox chicago in 2002.

...in the form of an essay

"hey, look, i'm thinking critically!"

not so much.
pk
01.11.08 at 05:15

Agreed worst Article on DO.
Santi
01.11.08 at 05:57

I have to agree, this is a pretty terrible article. If people are really so concerned, they can replace the stock white earbuds with something less obvious. Or, you know, actually pay attention to their surroundings.
Graham
01.11.08 at 06:59

If ipods increase crime, as I'm sure they have being an easily visable (white headphones)and easily sold item (think 300$ ipod for 100$ mark down on the street), then yes there is something Apple can do.

It doesn't have to be ugly and it doesn't have to be a change consumers don't want.

It could be as simple as having a password installed on the individual ipod, so that if my ipod was stolen then Joe McStealy couldn't use it or sell it. Done. I'm sure someone would crack it, but the hassle might deter people from theft.

So yes, while Apple doesn't have to be socially responsible for this, they could be. And then we'd have a vapid article touting Apple's wise new customer friendly product and software design.

carson
01.11.08 at 07:20

this is just a ridiculously childish and pedestrian article.

::: crosses Studio Blue off list of places to interview with::::
marc
01.11.08 at 08:03

Dumbest. DO. Article. Ever.
williamP
01.11.08 at 08:07

weak.
eric
01.11.08 at 08:28

maybe ernst bettler can design us up a solution.
james
01.11.08 at 08:35

this must be a parody. if so, its pretty hilarious
jv
01.11.08 at 09:51

Seriously? What. The. Fuck. Apple is responsible for "crafting a solution" to prevent iPod theft?

Governments should enforce law, though the extent to which they should regulate our lives to ensure "safety" is a matter of hot debate. Granting a profit-making corporation responsibility for the same social role is frankly much more frightening.

And the idea of passwording an iPod is even dumber than DRM for digital music. Probably easier for a theif to bypass, and more hassle for the legitimate end user.

Not to mention the fact that wearing earbuds WHILE WALKING THROUGH A HIGH-CRIME NEIGHBORHOOD is end-user error that Apple can't do much about. Tragic that people have been mugged and killed, yes. But blocking out your surroundings with headphones, and reducing your awareness of potential threats just seems like a really bad idea. Earbuds on the bus or train, fine. While walking, not so much. Is Apple also responsible for the two-fold increase in car-pedestrian collisions since the introduction of the iPod? Perhaps in addition to an anti-theft device, the player should include a vehicle-proximity alarm. While they're at it, I hope they figure out a way to make it prevent me from forgetting my keys and leaving my fly down, too.

The sky isn't falling yet...
D.Norman
01.11.08 at 09:59

Oh, yeah, another thing: if Apple locks down my iPod so tight I have to take a piss test before I recharge it, I'll buy a fucking Zune. Security is letting the right people in, not keeping the wrong people out. Erecting barriers to legitimate use does not a stronger castle make.
D.Norman
01.11.08 at 10:06

tiresome. vapid. Dismaying to see the sentiment expressed here that there's a corporate solution to lack of personal responsibility.
Gary R Boodhoo
01.11.08 at 10:07

i read somewhere recently that apple filed a patent that mates an AC charger with a specific iPod, thereby rendering the iPod unchargable in case of theft. this is likely to be a controversial technology when and if it comes out, but i am certain that there was some conscientious thought behind this.

i am seriously annoyed at some of the negative comments aimed at ms. weese ("vapid"?). you're not thinking hard enough, people. 99.9% of design is social-issue-neutral. it's that way because, frankly, we haven't thought about the relationship between designed objects and their externalities hard enough. sustainability is one thing, focusing design to address uncrackable social issues is another. not thinking hard enough about this stuff is...vapid.
Gong Szeto
01.11.08 at 10:11

"It's time for them — for all of us — to use our design skills to develop equally innovative solutions to issues of larger human consequence."

I believe this is the point Cheryl was trying to make. Clearly, she was not criticizing Apple's design aesthetic as some of you were commenting on. Instead, she was raising the issue of the role of design and how it is, and can be used to promote social awareness/change. Maybe a pharmaceutical company was never shut down due to a series of posters, but there are designers out there who understand the power they have. Maybe you all should take another look at John Bielenberg's Project M, or Cynthia Smith's Design for the other 90%...
Brian Watterson
01.11.08 at 10:57

QUOTE: "i am seriously annoyed at some of the negative comments aimed at ms. weese"

"Some" of the negative comments? There's only one other commenter who saw merit in this article.

Kudos to the DO readership for critiquing this facile, feel-good claptrap -- despite its superficial aura of political correctness.
williamP
01.11.08 at 11:08

QUOTE: "i am seriously annoyed at some of the negative comments aimed at ms. weese"

"Some" of the negative comments? There's only one other commenter who saw merit in this article.

Kudos to the DO readership for critiquing this facile, feel-good claptrap -- despite its superficial aura of political correctness.
williamP
01.11.08 at 11:11

Wow, this is laughable in its absurdity... what bubble is this poor woman living in?
ryan.
01.11.08 at 11:26

Cheryl is suggesting that there is a new social concern surrounding this object of desire, and is challenging Apple to put some of their resources and visionary thinking into solving it.

Legendary for their design solutions— perhaps they will be able to put their energy (and or re$ources) into solving this social problem in a much BIGGER way than just locking down ipods or being able to track them.

The comments about this article's vapidity are completely out of line, short sighted, and fail to contextualize the broader issue of social responsibility. Additionally, most of these arguments/comments have been defensive, weak and unsupported.

While the company has usually been prompt in its response to criticism, its attitude on these subjects has been more reactive than proactive.

Cheryl's argument is much more far reaching than just whether or not ipods can be locked down. Voted first in the area of innovation by Fortune, if Apple used only a small portion of their energy and resources to innovate in the area of social responsibility, what kind of real difference could they make?

This challenge is similar to the Diabetes Design Challenge (as observed here at DO). Did people complain that someone called out Apple? No. Designers responded to the challenge in a very real, meaningful way by developing their own solution, the Charmr. Perhaps all of the negative energy generated throughout these posts could be put towards a more productive end?
Amy Fidler
01.11.08 at 11:30

So now designers not only have to save the environment and starving Africans, we have to prevent muggings, too? Why not just change the term used—instead of designer, use savior. I am sure that if everyone in the AIGA navel-gazes simultaneously, we will finally achieve the utopia that the early modernists were striving for.
Then again, when BMWs became especially popular with car thieves, anti-theft systems became a standard feature. But only because rampant theft was hurting sales.
James Puckett
01.11.08 at 11:47

... if Apple used only a small portion of their energy and resources to innovate in the area of social responsibility, what kind of real difference could they make?

wow, just think: they could raise a whole lot of money for AIDS medications going to africa with just a little of that ipod money.

oh wait, they already do.
pk
01.11.08 at 11:58

I disagree that the concerns in this article are "vapid" - many of us became designers to realize a better world - no, that is the wrong word to describe this post. Rather this article is specious. Why? Crime is not increasing in the United States.

From the United States Bureau of Justice website one can see that throughout the nation crime dropped in every category and region in 2007. While tragically there are individual cities and places where crime has increased, typically, and particularly in big cities, this has not be the case. Further, these trends are long term.

For instance, exploration of the same website reveals that crime peaked in the early 1980's, about the time that the Mac Classic was introduced, and has in gross terms been dropping ever since. Interestingly, for the nation as a whole, crime continues to decrease since the introduction of the iPod. Check it out for yourself.

Would the government lie? Perhaps, for instance with regards to weapons of mass destruction they certainly stretched the truth. But I think even the CIA and the FBI combined could not truly or credibly relate iPods and crime.

Following Ms. Weese's logic we should in fact be congratulating Apple on keeping more and more of us tuned out, turned on and turned away - from life...hmmm, now that's something to argue about.
John Kaliski
01.12.08 at 01:09

the obvious design solution is to give the hardware away while deriving revenue entirely from the software (OS, 3rd party apps, development tools, oh and of course... music distribution)

realistically, you can only pay for or steal the hardware once.
Gary R Boodhoo
01.12.08 at 02:45

I know how Apple can make their iPods less desirable- make it look like a Zune player!
Fausto Fernos
01.12.08 at 05:12

This article, along with any others that imply companies that make good products are at fault for crimes are absurd.
Ban fire arms first. Tighten up the law. Put more money and personnel into the police force.
Are attractive women at fault for getting raped?
jbalance
01.12.08 at 06:19

i was very recently directed to a previous article here at DO and found it engrossing. the comments for this article have been much more informative about the design community, and entertaining too, than the piece itself - in all but it's inflated opinion of the potential impact of designers; nothing in the comments comes close to that.

while i can't claim a build-up of lint in my own navel, this is pretty absurd.

I know - the iEar. build wireless speakers directly into our ears, broadcast our tunes from the eardock - the transmitter could go into our navels. the same transmitter could play music videos and dvds into a pair of glasses.... near-perfect isolation.


no...wait.... outies would claim discrimination. designers would have to find another place to put it.

Ah well. Let them wear Zune.
peteM
01.12.08 at 08:51

Check out Finger Scan for your iPhone or iPod touch although this is for amusement purposes only.
Carl W. Smith
01.12.08 at 09:07

It's absolutely asinine to suggest that anyone but the perpetrators of these crimes should bear responsibility. The suggestion is no different than saying women are raped because of how they are dressed. Must we eliminate every vestige of personal responsibility from the world?
Andy Woods
01.12.08 at 10:08

Pete, James, Ryan, et al:

By "naval-gazing," do you mean apathy?

In other countries designers are working with government alliances to develop innovative solutions to crime:
(http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/en/Design-Council/3/Press/Design-Alliance-Fighting-crime-from-the-drawing-board/)

As we carve out a future role for the design profession, we can choose to focus solely on helping business make a profit. Or we can take some responsibility for developing meaningful solutions to larger social issues.
Cheryl Towler Weese
01.12.08 at 10:16

What the f^%# is this shit. This is from a f^&*ing Creative Director, go back and f^%$ing draw something. iPods don't kill people, people kill people.
What the f&^%?
01.12.08 at 10:30

I can see the future now:

A young mother and father plan to take their only son to see a late showing of Zorro at the cineplex. Before they leave, the boy asks if his mother will bring her iPod so that they will have something to listen to on their way home. The mother, initially hesitant, agrees, and the family heads out for a night on the town.

Hours pass, and when the film has finished, the mother places the white ear-buds in her ears so that she may find a suitable song for her young son to listen to on the train ride home. However, her scrolling is cut short when the father announces that they have only five minutes left to catch the train, and will have to take a shortcut through Park Row in order to make it on time. The family moves quickly down the alley, but before they can reach the end, their journey is cut short: a man appears from the shadows, arm outstretched with a gun in hand. The father moves to protect his family but is shot dead. The man lunges at the woman, unloading another round into her chest as he snatches the iPod and flees down the street. The boy, traumatized, kneels down between the bodies of his parents.

Years later, after extensive mental and physical training that bring him to the peak of perfection, the boy, now a man, vows to rid the city of the evil that took their lives.

Apple has created The Batman.
David Jefferson
01.12.08 at 10:43

this is so sad. this thread is not about apple or the ipod. let's assume this comment thread is a random sampling of the design profession. i'd say about 90% of the comments here are taking the position that design cannot/should not engage in issues of social consequence, and 10% (including ms. weese and a few others) says it should. this is not surprising at all. what *is* surprising is the level of intellectually immature vitriol directed at what i consider to be a well thought out rhetorical stance. if 90% of you are indeed "right", then design really is just a styling profession unequipped to engage in real problems other than how the way things look and function. it is no wonder that almost all design rhetoric refer to consumers of design as "users". they aren't "users" - they are people. people live in societies. societies have problems. designing products and the marketing of products do not add up to society in toto (though designers seem to think so for the most part). the blindness to engaging social consequences is just mind-blowing. who taught you all to think in this utterly limited way?

as for the comment about wanting designers to be saviors, well, to me that ain't such a bad aspiration. they don't issue nobel prizes to stylists. while all you stylists are busy being so uncomfortable with the notion of the possibiliites of designed social responsibility, hilary cottam won designer of the year in the UK (who was recognized for her contributions to the design of public policy, not another fucking typeface or blingware website) and just formed 'participle', and interdisciplinary powerhouse to engage in the hard business and social problems that ms. weese is only suggesting here. what makes ms. cottam different from what i am reading here is that she is fully engaged with the world. (i thought *i* was engaged, but compared to her, i am deeply asleep).

the whole d-thinking movement, though young, is poised to elevate the mission of design and fearlessness about alien problems like ipods and crime to be more "duh" than "huh?" (in the case of this thread, it's a lot of "fu-"). it's inspiring to see this going on, but it's going on OUTSIDE of this pathetic excuse for a thread. you all are underpaid for a reason. you think small. take off your ipod earbuds, close photoshop and dreamweaver, and go read a book (and not another design book for god's sake). if you don't, you will be irrelevant in 10 years or sooner, where your contributions to business and society will be measured by whether or not you are a cost center or a revenue source (here's a translation if you can handle it: you are either a liability or an asset - it is a choice you make. it will define you and your career for the rest of your life.)

again, this thread is not about apple or ipods. it's about a growing fracturing (some would call it necessary evolution) of the design profession - from one that is pretty ignorant (and in the case of this thread, downright sarcastic, and not even a clever sarcastic at that) to one that really is trying to make a palpable difference in the world by using its brains and progressive moral framework. 90% of this thread represents the former - how embarrassing for us all.

Gong Szeto
01.12.08 at 11:38

I really am just kidding,

Maybe the author would like Apple to make an iGun with all the features of an iPod and a gun.

Mugger says, "Give me your iPod!"

Victim thinks, "Good thing I just downloaded some ammunition."

Look, an iPod isn't worth your life. Mugger wants it? Give it to him.
Rob Davidson
01.12.08 at 11:56

This has to be one of the most inane articles I've ever read. When a design becomes so popular so as to induce criminal desire for acquisition, then the solution is not to make it less popular. The solution is to curb the criminal desire through law enforcement, taking precautions when around high-crime areas, etc. Too often security features in the device itself will only end up marring the beauty of the design, and reducing its appeal.
Russell Rundell
01.12.08 at 12:33

I have to agree with all of the comments, This article is just plain outrageous. This is not a matter of design at all. This is about the price of the ipod and its demand, pure economics. If apple really cared, then they would price the ipod at a level that everyone could support it. Believe me, if ipods were only 39.99 then no one would be getting mugged or killed for them.

Design is just a tool for Apple to justify the price. For that designers are responsible, but that is like saying designers should be responsible for the actions of companies they design identities for. That is just something that I will not accept.
Zinni
01.12.08 at 12:50

Now that close to fifty people are on record about this essay, can we give the negativity a rest? I'd like to pick up on Gong Szeto's comment to shift the conversation with a couple of questions.

1) First, from a critical standpoint, what is it about Apple that makes the company be above criticism? Anytime we have a post on this site about Apple, all critical facilities seems to go out the window. If we were writing about rich ladies getting killed for their Gucci's, I doubt we'd we having the same reactions on this site. From a cultural context, Apple seems bizarrely and uncritically beloved.

2) There were similar critiques of Nike a decade ago when they were revealed to be using sweat shop labor around the world and their $200 shoes became the object of desire among poor blacks kids, in fact leading to killings. Discussions of these issues lead to a dramatically different Nike, one that grappled with its role in international commerce as well as in culture. While Nike ultimately engaged the issues, Apple seems immune.
I wonder if this analogy is worth discussion in this context.

3.) I think my friend John Kaliski is right that the argument gets muddled when tied to crime rates, which are declining nationwide. But dismissing the author's argument because of this is equally problematic: it's like saying that Mayor Bloomberg or the NYC's citizens shouldn't be worried about one horrific murder because crime rates are down. The fact is that people have been killed for their iPods. One person's death is enough for me to ask the question, why?
William Drenttel
01.12.08 at 12:55

Interesting.

We could therefore presume that criminals are a lot more design savvy these days. They obviously have a modern penchant for sleek minimalism.

Lets keep design within certain limits please. There's a tendency for "design is everything". That is annoying.
mark webster
01.12.08 at 01:01

(Apple's) affiliation with a Chinese supplier who was found in violation of labor laws last year.

Ms. Weese, Can you be specific here?

re: I recently did a logo job with a Chinese client who made claims to manufaturing Apple's new touch screens. They met me in midtown and paid in cash. After a terrible collaboration they eventually chose a direction and paid the remaining difference via PayPal using a liason's Amex card. 5 months later they made a claim that I never finished and managed to remove the funds.

If this is the same company cited above I may actually take em to small claims. Fun.
felix sockwell
01.12.08 at 01:42

Cheryl, the navel-gazing I referred to is the tendency of liberal designers to justify the concept of social responsibility by dreaming up new applications for it. It is interesting that you use the term "take responsibility," as you are so sure that your concept of social responsibility is a truisms, because what your essay does is make up responsibility where it does not exist. Designers, as human beings, are individuals, not ants. We have no responsibility to others. As for business, as Milton Friedman noted, business has only one social responsibility—to turn a profit. Helping business chase profits is no ignoble goal, it is encouraging the fulfillment of hopes and dreams and assisting corporate entities of justifying their very existence.

I do not mean to discredit the idea that designers should be broad-minded and forward-thinking, or that benevolent additions to existing products, e.g. antitheft systems are good design. But producing an anti-theft system in a product where there is a need should be done to make a better product—not because designers have a responsibility to keep people from getting mugged.
james puckett
01.12.08 at 02:20

William, you raise some good points. And Cheryl brings up some good ones herself, so it's a shame that we see so many negative comments about her stance as a pundit.

I have a lot more to say about this matter, but won't clog the blog landscape here. Read my two cents.
Tselentis
01.12.08 at 02:22

"The fact is that people have been killed for their iPods."
William Drenttel.

As far as I can read, this article is based on presumption and rhetoric. I fail to see the serious link between the design of the iPod and crime.
:::::::::::::::::::::::

"how embarrassing for us all."
Gong Szeto

There is nothing to be ashamed about Mr. Szeto. We are just airing our different reactions and opinions.

::::::::::::::::::::::


mark webster
01.12.08 at 03:30

I'm so surprised by the comments to this post... I find it so troubling that theres all this negativity about something designers can actually do to prevent the theft of ipods. Think about it... if you had to prove ownership(i guess by was of key code) before recharging the ipod, no one would steal ipods because the ipod would become useless in the hands of someone else. Obviously this wouldnt stop crime altogether, and i dont think Cheryl is proposing that it would, but i think it could stop the theft of ipods. Whats so silly is everyone is freaking out at this post as if Cheryl has two heads, when so many systems like this are already in place. For example, those security labels in stores. Those seals have reduced shoplifting in stores, why is this any different?
Scott Langer
01.12.08 at 03:31

I can't believe that someone can be so superficial as to believe that a consumer electronics device can be the reason behind a rising crime rate. Or that the design of said device can somehow become a deterrent for crime. If the punishment for a crime isn't deterrent enough, how does one expect the device itself to become a better deterrent?

I am also surprised that some commenters take issue with calling this piece "vapid". The arrogance is astounding. There is no better word than "vapid" for it, except perhaps "naïve". It is as if Ms. Weese had a fleeting thought and vomited it upon the page.

I apologize for the callousness of this post, but I am one who believes that design can play a role in affecting change, and pieces like this can only serve to damage the campaigns of other designers who are truly trying.
Sean Flanagan
01.12.08 at 03:52

So, all you Dick Tracys out there, once you figure out how to key code or whatever the iPods, crime drops?
Mr. Drenttell makes a fair point about people giving Apple a pass, but Apple deserves criticism for the stuff they can control: mainly the environmental impact of their products' life cycles. They are such design wizards that it is short-sighted that they've ignored those issues.
But the reason I think this post is ill-considered is that Ms. Weese has taken the phrase "iPod-related" and turned it into "IPod crimes" as if the device is the perpetrator, and I'm sorry, it just isn't, unless you are talking about inner-ear canals. Today in the NYtimes there is a piece about theft occuring at ATM machines and while there is a technical fix, the companies that make the machines do not take seriously any theft that is under $20,000....so it makes no economic sense to make the adjustment. And an iPod costs what?
Crime is a given in our society: Jesus would not have hung on the cross between two thieves if it was some sort of new phenomenon. It is something our society has always dealt with, but blaming the makers of desirable things for their theft is a new strange expression of guilt that should probably be directed to more effective social change.
People have unfortunately lost their lives over all sorts of inane things, including cash in their pockets, and it just seems like fuzzy (or, weirdly, self-centered) thinking to blame the crime on bad design and to insist that there is "good" design will bring an end to felony crime. I am sorry that so many are falling for the ill-logic of this, though I do notice that many, in defending this post, are trying to change the subject and say that those like me who do not buy the logic are somehow against the idea that design can be transformative. If design is gong to be transformative, then don't designers have to wield their empathy and efforts with strategic intelligence, instead of wasting their time on stuff they cannot really change?
plakaboy
01.12.08 at 04:56

Two questions:

1

"Apple reports that it receives a call every 6 minutes reporting a theft."

Apple has in their terms and conditions of their AppleCare Protection Plan that a device (ipod) that is lost or stolen is not covered in a protection plan.
http://www.apple.com/legal/applecare/appgeos.html

Why do roughly 80 consumers a day call Apple to report a theft? Wouldn't they call local authorities to help them track down whoever mugged them? What do they want Apple to do for them?



2

I have lived in Rochester, DC and now in NYC and it boggles my mind how many people walk the streets/subways completely unaware of their surroundings with ipods blasting in their ears. Why are so many people (teenagers and adults) in metropolitan areas not using common sense? I never wear my ipod in public, at night and especially when I'm walking by myself. If you live in a high crime area, why would you wear a target strapped on either side of your head?

One comment/request:

This post could have expanded to beyond Apple's involvement on soft crime. Granted, it is good to know they are beginning to do their part to alleviate the crime surrounding their product (because it isn't necessarily their problem). But what about other subjects they have been criticized on that are much more relevant? Such as the complaints about the use of toxic materials in the iphone or their lack of customer service AFTER a product has been purchased? It would have been more relevant to read an overall scope of Apple's courses of action to major public criticism and how, or if they have become anymore socially responsible in the past 5 to 10 years as a corporate company.
Lauren D.
01.12.08 at 05:30

"Yeah, and all that stuff about the environment has been pretty much universally agreed as a desperate ploy for press with little foundation in reality."

Um, universally agreed upon by who?
Adam
01.12.08 at 06:06

iPodnano desire

  1. One Two Three Four
    Tell me that you love me more
    Sleepless, long nights
    That was what my youth was for

  2. OLD teenage hopes are ALIVE at your door
    Left you with nothing
    But they want some more

  3. Oh, oh, oh
    You're changing your heart
    Oh, oh, oh
    You know who you are

  4. One Two Three Four

Carl W. Smith
01.12.08 at 07:33

An utterly ridiculous article. If the whole world was run using the logic suggest by the article we would live in a dull and bland world. "Don't design that, someone might want to steal it. Can you make it less desirable?

By your logic design would never progress due to the fear of the change it could create. Designers shouldn't be punished for creating a successful product.
bobanon
01.12.08 at 08:11

You guys are missing the point. The point is there is more to a design then strictly price, aesthetics, marketing successes etc. With every design there is a social aspect that must be considered. The social aspect of an ipod is poorly designed leaving consequences it should responisbly addressed.
Jebadiah
01.12.08 at 08:31

I love that we designers are thinking about designing for social change and seeing the larger potential that all professions hold, not just design.
Certainly if Apple or any other company creates products that can endanger the lives of the user in any way they should be concerned as responsible human beings. Ms. Weese might argue that Apple would be being myopic not to see it's larger responsibility to the customer since they are not just in the "iPod, etc" business, but "the entertainment and making people happy, etc" business and certainly people aren't happy if they are being mugged specifically because they are using a company's product/service.
However, I believe Ms. Weese may be displaying myopia of her own by suggesting the solution is in making the iPod less desirable to muggers. Is the problem truly that iPods are so easily stolen and resold for good quick cash or are there more effective angles design can take on this issue? Many posters who railed against this article argue it is end-user error (which Apple "can't control") that causes the theft. Perhaps the best solution is not solely in making the iPod less desirable to muggers, but possibly in many other design solutions such as education design. Educating the user about the visibility of the earphones, etc as an attractant of crime and how to avoid this. There are many angles from which a designer could approach the solution to this problem (Provided the problem is even correctly identified as the design of the iPod making it so desirable that their suddenly must exist a pool of people who somehow need or think they need quick money and that theft of iPods will solve their problems. Hmm. Where did these people come from and why do they think iPods will solve their problems and why do iPod consumers make it so easy for them? And why do they have problems in the first place that iPods might solve. Questions. Questions. So many unasked questions and unidentified problems designers and others could tackle.) Is the problem really that the design of iPods make them so easy to steal and resell or are there grander social issues at play here that may be more fruitful to pursue?
I agree that Apple should care about their customers if they want to keep them (not just alive and uninjured, but from converting to other brands or to complete MP3 player apathy) they should look into as many ways as possible to tackle the issues their customers face in order to enjoy continued success as a profitable and successful organization.
Just keep thinking bigger!
Jennifer
01.12.08 at 09:17

Is Steven 'Most designers are liberal's' Heller reading this? Most designers are only comfortable with the status quo. Most designers are, as evidenced in this thread, passively reactionary.

James Puckett unearths the real source of hostility here: Designers, as human beings, are individuals, not ants. We have no responsibility to others.
But he is utterly wrong, human beings are nothing without each other. Nothing. We can't come into being, or survive without depending on another (is that anti-American sentiment?). He inadvertently highlights the terminal problem at the core of this ideology - if a company's only responsibility is to make profit, and an individual's only responsibility is to themselves, how do we account for this fundamental interdependence?

The problem of crime IS complex, but it's both an individual and social responsibility.

Most designers, far from being liberal, want to believe in Milton Friedman.
Malcolm Wilkinson
01.12.08 at 09:21

QUOTE: "The social aspect of an ipod is poorly designed leaving consequences it should responisbly addressed."

That kind of thinking makes me quite grateful that certain people work in the design field, and not in politics.

The problem is not a group of presumably apathetic design folk with no sense of social responsibility. The problem is half-baked, feel-good/PC claims such as we've seen from Ms. Weese & her defenders. They're more likely to impede progress by making advocates of socially responsible design look silly.
williamP
01.12.08 at 10:24

I can't decide which is more useless -- the author of this absurd article or me, for having wasted any amount of time reading it. Please, DO, do better than this, for the love of god.
Christian in NYC
01.12.08 at 11:09

I think the big point that you all seem to be tip-toeing around is that security is synonymous with inconvenience, if apple designed in a bunch of bigbrother-esque security features they would lose the attraction altogether.

I for one wouldn't buy an ipod that needed a key or a code every time i wanted to play a song , i use it in the car while driving , are you insane?- i can just see the next article: Cheryl Towler Weese: Is Apple Soft on Traffic Violations?

Vapid is accurate, but- the best description is "Author Blames Apple for inept law enforcement" or "if i badmouth Apple can i get on Digg?" or .. do you need me to go on ?

Hoop
01.12.08 at 11:46

I think the criticism here isn't defending Apple per se; it was defending common sense. For example, I vigorously hate meaningless statistics like "Apple reports that it receives a call every 6 minutes reporting a theft." So? How many credit cards are reported on the same 6 minutes? One, five, a hundred? I have no idea. You can easily misinterpret what's really happening if you don't have all the facts. As designers we should be aware of this.

Anyway, I have a friend that gave his 6 yr old daughter an ipod for XMas... I bet she's going to "lose" it in less than a month. Why would a kid that age want an ipod?
roni
01.13.08 at 12:21

Umm.... I can't imagine a screen-lock or some kind of online verification system deterring the theft of iPods. Anyone who has paid any attention to the massive effort to 'unlock' the iPhone, or to Microsoft's treadmill effort to lock down windows, would know that it would take hackers maybe a matter of minutes to find a way around any kind of software solution.

Maybe they could implement some kind of biometric device into the click-wheel, but even that is ultimately a software solution, and would likely be cracked.

So I guess I agree with the original post. Apple should just make less-desirable products. It's the only truly responsible thing to do.
Nick Schlax
01.13.08 at 12:22

John Kaliski: "this article is specious. Why? Crime is not increasing in the United States."

You're partially right, John. In the US, violent crime fell every year from 1993 to 2004. It rose in 2005 and 2006 (not shown on the charts you cite), just as iPods entered the mass market and became ubiquitous among consumers. The increase in violent crime alone is disproportionately greater than other, non-violent but economically motivated crimes, such as theft and burglary.

James Puckett: "As for business, as Milton Friedman noted, business has only one social responsibility—to turn a profit."

I agree with you here in part, too, James. While corporations might want to represent themselves as socially responsible as a form of positive public relations, they shouldn't invest significant funds in socially responsible causes if their shareholders' profit would be jeopardized. And a company's social reputation rarely affects its sales or share prices -- Apple's stock has done remarkably well in the past two years, notwithstanding negative press about the company's lackluster environmental and labor record. Despite this lack of impact on the bottom line, other highly visible companies have made serious efforts to monitor and improve their own track record. In these and other areas, corporate social responsibility has become institutionalized.

What the investing and consuming public does mean by "social responsibility" is forthright communication with the public about their products, particularly if the corporation knows something about a product that endangers the consumer. Since Apple is clearly aware of the potential risks associated with iPod ownership (Steve Jobs is on record as having called at least one victim's parents in the aftermath of a murder), is it a stretch to ask the company to be frank with consumers about the correlation between the iPod and violent crime?
Cheryl Towler Weese
01.13.08 at 12:36

QUOTE: "...if the corporation knows something about a product that endangers the consumer. Since Apple is clearly aware of the potential risks associated with iPod ownership ... is it a stretch to ask the company to be frank with consumers about the correlation between the iPod and violent crime?"

And what about the correlation between diamond rings and violent crime? What is De Beers doing about that? And then there's BMW ownership. And of course, the ownership of too many 20 dollar bills in plain sight.

Ms. Weese, you are *spectacularly* clueless.
williamP
01.13.08 at 03:09

Cheryl, I do not want to get too caught up in this since your bigger idea, that we all ought to design more responsible objects that take into account a wider range of end user response is an idea that I subscribe to. Yet I remain troubled over the facile sensationalism of the iPod citation to support the thesis and still think you are very wrong to cite it and build your thesis upon it.

On the one hand the iPod and crime argument is so obvious as to be banal. Of course there were more robberies with iPods...becuase there are more iPods. It would have been difficult to steal one at all before 2001. On the other hand the argument that there is an iCrime wave ulitmately relies upon a small spike in crimes that has already retreated even as iPods continue to proliferate. Two points in this regard; first, the FBI's own compliation of data for 2006 states the folllowing.

"When data for 2006 to 2005 were compared, the estimated volume of violent crime increased 1.9 percent. The 5-year trend (2006 compared with 2002) indicated that violent crime decreased 0.4 percent. For the 10-year trend (2006 compared with 1997) violent crime fell 13.3 percent."

This does indeed suggest an increase in crime, as you suggest, even as there are more iPods. I guess that is why you said I am only partially right. However, and here is where my partiality becomes less partially, if you were to look at the same FBI summmary for 2007, published just last week, you would find the following statement from the FBI:

"Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 1.8 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in the first half of 2007 when compared with figures reported for the first six months of 2006."

Indeed, rates of crime do make short term shifts from year to year, yet there were also more iPods in 2007 than there were in 2006. Crime nevertheless dropped, and in accordance with the short term time horizons and ideas of the authors you cite, these researchers would have to now seemingly conclude the opposite of what they concluded a year ago.

Interestingly, if you read the report that you cited one quickly notes a convenient oversite on the part of the authors. They footnote a lot of things in their article but never directly cite the statistics from the FBI that their ultimate iCrime argument is based upon. Perhaps they do not want to or perhaps they can't and they as much as acknowledge this when they state:

"Since the recent increase in crime has, to date, occurred over only two years, rigorous empirical tests of any hypothesis about the cause of the spike in violence are not possible."

In 2007 their hypothesis seemingly implodes. Statistics are tricky business. The next thing that will be announced, perhaps by these same authors, is that carrying a wallet in your pocket unnecessarily attracts criminals. I carry mine in my pocket and I have never been mugged...yet.
John Kaliski
01.13.08 at 03:53

Bible has inspire more people to kill than an ipod, although I do wish it was better designed, people do kill people for a bunch of stupid reasons, but it's a human issue, not design issue.

Bad design don't kill people.

Are you saying that if the ipod wasn't invented Or if the Ipod was better designed? the mother would still been alive?

Bad people exist, they are shaped and form by society to some degree, yes, but the object of their desire does not really matter.

If you thinking: "oh he's so ignorant"
I understand your frustration, some society's problems are so big and complex, you will wish there is a quick fix.

To find a quick fix and blame someone like designer is the true ignorant thinking. Every time something happens, it's ban this, ban that, limit everybody's freedom just for one case. Do you know the VA Tech killer didn't play video games and only watch Wrestling on television?

I'm a liberal and pro-women's rights and pro-gay and against gun control and against death penalty and all that. But I understand some freedom needs to be limited for greater good (because some of the greater can be surprisingly stupid)

But if you are too uncomfortable with the possible evil of the free world, then may be the comfort of your neighbors is as much a slave as you principle of communism is more of your style.

PS: I never thought there would be a day where censorship of a design that does nothing but "appealing" is equal to lack of social conscious.



Panasit Ch
01.13.08 at 07:24

However, there is a more valid issue concerning Ipod that has been going on, and that is a number of teenager getting hit by a car because they were listening to ipod.

May be there is some design issue that can solve that, either a separate ad (there is all ready an ad series out). May be a warning voice "please be mindful of your surrounding while using the product" in between song, that has an option of being turned of but is default when bought, just to at least let them know (kids will find it annoying I'm sure). Or whatever.

THAT is more of an issue than people kill for Ipod. People kill for girlfriend and boyfriend. Should we ban them or design them better?

Young girls remember, being too beautiful may create violent behavior, and you will be held responsible for it.
Panasit Ch
01.13.08 at 08:41

Cheryl; james's response to your question suits my use reasonably well - although i don't see it as a problem of a 'liberal' mind - and i second his endorsement of the larger idea of your article. Also, Mr. K's recent response.

i also used it in an attempt to describe a loss of perspective and proportion due to a limited view - navels (ourselves, or in this case a profession) being a small field of vision - that designers have THAT much power or influence.

socially conscientious sure, but let's keep some sense of perspective.
peteM
01.13.08 at 09:05

Blaming the Apple and the iPod for crime is like blaming the Burger King and the Big Mac for the obesity problem.
Tselentis
01.13.08 at 09:22

What a demoralizing lot of comments to this article! On one hand comments reveal a lack of appreciation for the social consequences of advertising, and on the other - comments claim design has no real power or influence anyway! A truly unabashed display of designers fleeing & feigning responsibility.

The article is a brave attempt to look a little deeper into an industry that should have to account for its actions (like any other) but is hell bent at avoiding the bigger issues. As posted in Business Week recently: 'Designers suck because they are IGNORANT, especially about sustainability. The rap about designers is that they design CRAP that hurts the planet.' The comments to this article prove this point quite explicitly, especially Kevin ('all that stuff about the environment has been pretty much universally agreed as a desperate ploy for press with little foundation in reality') - who really needs to sent back to primary school.

Cheryl is right ('In other countries designers are working with government alliances to develop innovative solutions to crime'). From this side of the ocean (UK) there is generally a basic awareness that most actions - including design, have social and environmental implications.




jody
01.13.08 at 09:57

It's one thing to wonder what measures Apple could put in place to help with the crime issue, and the response would probably have been greatly tempered if that were what the post were limited to. But the use of complicity in the last paragraph is flat out bizarre as the word clearly implies their direct involvement in or at the very least sanction of the various crimes cited. That is where the line was crossed from observing that a problem exists to actually blaming Apple for it, and is likely where the crowd turned on you. This is not a loss of critical facilities, it was the result of and reaction to poor editing. [Hi, Rick!] I am decidedly not an Apple apologist and see no real error in the overall response, though not necessarily the words, this has elicited.

It seems a bit odd to me that this argument is being made in something of a vacuum. As a more obvious example, there have been enough attempts to hold gun makers responsible for murders, etc. that legislation was passed to put a stop to it. This leaves open the question of whether any of the attempts ever actually worked, which I unfortunately don't know, but if anyone's going to be the test of manufacturer responsibility...

I can't go back through all the comments at this point, but another detail that seems to have been glossed is that anything Apple implements can only take effect after the fact, and the assumption seems to be that the mugger is choosing his victim based on the iPod as direct object and not also—or even primarily—as an indicator[1]. Even if the pod locks itself or otherwise becomes unusable[2], you're only removing one of those possibilities, and not the important one; somebody carrying an iPod is still arguably a better target than the person with the junky portable CD player.


[1] To pick up on an unfortunate metaphor: The rod is incidental to the lightning. A tree works just as well for what it's actually trying to do.

[2] ...and it's almost guaranteed that any measure short of physical self-destruction will be circumvented within days of release.
Su
01.13.08 at 10:42

Does the author of this article even understand what the term "Complicity" means? Here is what the dictionary says:

"The state of being an accomplice; partnership or involvement in wrongdoing: complicity in a crime."

You honestly think Apple is conspiring with criminals? I can only assume you don't. Apple hasn't committed any criminal offense. So why would you use a word that is clearly out of context? This kind of word wrangling is nothing but yellow journalism.

Crime is a choice pure and simple. Regardless of income bracket or level of intent people make a free will choice to act criminally.

Trying to lay consequential blame upon the maker of a product the victim may possess that a criminal desires is completely and totally irrelevant to the causality of the crime itself. So at best your logic if highly flawed.

It wasn't too many years ago that certain Nike shoes were the rage and some criminals decided it was worth killing for them as well. Your logic would go to reason that Nike is soft on crime too and must be guilty to some degree of complicity as well?

You'll always have criminals making murderous decisions regardless what so-called security options you put forth.

How about placing the blame where it's deserved? On the ones choosing to act criminally and killing people because of their own sinful ambitions.
Von Glitschka
01.13.08 at 11:04

William P: "And what about the correlation between diamond rings and violent crime? What is De Beers doing about that? And then there's BMW ownership."

The comparison between a diamond ring or BMW doesn't fully hold for me. The troubling issue with the iPod -- just as with Nike a decade ago -- is that people are murdering to obtain a relatively inexpensive item, while the value of diamond rings and BMWs provides the robber a comparatively much greater rate of return. The reason that I think design is relevant to the discussion is that it's the iPod's remarkably covetable status -- its stellar design -- that makes people want to kill to have it.

John Kaliski: "Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation reported a decrease of 1.8 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in the first half of 2007 when compared with figures reported for the first six months of 2006."

The crime statistics from 2005-2007, when analyzed on the whole, still suggest that even as overall crime is dropping, the rate of robbery outpaces that of theft and burglary. All three forms of crime should move similarly given similar socioeconomic conditions -- and that is the basis for the Urban Institute's report. Something else must be afoot.

To be clear here, I'm not suggesting that Apple make a more poorly designed product, or add a simple security system. I am suggesting that Apple's designers might use their masterful abilities to innovate to come up with a strategic response that we haven't yet considered -- a new way to use the iPod that makes it less vulnerable; a new way of communicating with the public that would lead to different results.

Enough said. This is clearly an issue of differing world views. Fundamentally, I think our profession can either be part of the solution, or part of the problem. Design, as I see it, has the potential to expand beyond form-giving and encompass meaningful strategic and social change.
Cheryl Towler Weese
01.13.08 at 12:19

This will seem silly in a few years, when we all have our iChip implants.
Charles Eicher
01.13.08 at 12:31

It didn't seem as bad an article as so many in the peanut gallery did, but I do agree that the idea of the iPod's design is a key ingredient of rising crime rates is an incomplete one. Perhaps it is even completely wrong.

The first commenter on this post probably said it right: criminals are not design aficianados, they are poor or money-hungry, and if something's hot, then they want it—or the money they can get for it.

Perhaps there are some iPod thiefs who are more hungry for the status a set of white head phones could give them. I wouldn't put it past the 14 or 15 year old.

Apple has brought about an unprecedented level of beauty and simplicity to the design of consumer electronics. I wouldn't blame Apple for making an object that, on merit of its design, became highly coveted.

It is fair, however, to suggest that, if it is true that iPod's bring out the worst in some people (along with diamonds and Nike Jordan hi-tops), then they should look into how they might discourage it. It's not so easy with shoes and diamonds, but it is easy enough to add electronic deterrence features into an iPod.

I suppose I'm just repeating what a good many commenters have already wrote. Given the heated response to this article, I think Cheryl Towler Weese has written a thought-provoking (or at least button-pushing) post.

Tom Froese
01.13.08 at 12:41

The crime statistics from 2005-2007, when analyzed on the whole, still suggest that even as overall crime is dropping, the rate of robbery outpaces that of theft and burglary. All three forms of crime should move similarly given similar socioeconomic conditions -- and that is the basis for the Urban Institute's report. Something else must be afoot.

The only place that crime went up in 2007 is in the South. There murder, robbery and property crime and burglary all went up. Interestingly aggravated assault went down. With the exception of robbery in the West crime types in all other regions went down. Does this mean that iPod design is to blame in the South but not the East and West and North of this vast land? Perhaps Apple should design different iPods for each reason based upon FBI statistics.

Reaching a quick opinion looking at statistical data is not the same thing as proving a hypothesis. I would hope Appple's designers will not be as casual about their use of statistics and wording when they address some of the issues you reasonably raise.

Sometimes one has to trust the wisdom of crowds and in this case looking at the anecdotes, urban myths, and statistics and being able to separate the facts from the froth would go a long way towards engendering a more reasonable design conversation - and ultimately a more meaningful design outcome. Design matters but so does design intelligence.
John Kaliski
01.13.08 at 12:53

John, please look closely at my, and the Urban Institute's, references here. It's the rate of robbery -- violent theft -- that's provocative, which outpaces theft and burglary, even in 2007.

I agree with you on this point: I'm not a statistician, and am not qualified to develop a meaningful interpretation of these figures. The analysts at the Urban Institute, however, are.
Cheryl Towler Weese
01.13.08 at 01:08

I don't know if Nora Ephron is a DO reader, but the NYTimes has published an essay of hers today that seems to channel Weese-ian logic of the iPod crime wave. I take the liberty of quoting here, but I encourage all of you to see the logic taken to its....conclusions:
"It's much easier to write a screenplay on a computer than on a typewriter. Years ago, when you wrote a screenplay on a typewriter, you had to retype the entire page just to make the smallest change; now, on the computer, you can make large and small changes effortlessly, you can fiddle with dialogue, you can change names and places with a keystroke. And yet movies are nowhere near as good as they used to be. In 1939, when screenwriters were practically still using quill pens, the following movies were among those nominated for best picture: "Gone With the Wind," "The Wizard of Oz," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Wuthering Heights" and "Stagecoach," and that's not even the whole list. So: is it possible that computers are responsible for the decline of movies?
plakaboy
01.13.08 at 01:37

Crime is a choice pure and simple. Regardless of income bracket or level of intent people make a free will choice to act criminally.

Except people do not make those choices randomly; choices are always a product of one's upbringing, environment, opportunities, means, and worldview. There are already many professions trying very hard to alter these factors that lead to crime.

If the design profession wishes to contribute to that endeavour, it ought to respect the work that has already gone into understanding crime and its causes, without thinking design necessarily has something to offer. It may, but that is not yet proven, nor even argued convincingly. Furthermore, many design solutions to crime are post-hoc, they do not target the reason why crime exists in the first place (it's not because things are too easy to steal).

The refrain is yet again 'design needs to make meaningful social change' without ever any specific reference as to how this will happen. One exception is the appeal to educational campaigns, but the relevance of design to the success of an educational campaign is far from established.
Ralphy
01.13.08 at 02:21

The stupidest thing I have ever read on DO. Hands down.
Gary Baker
01.13.08 at 04:25

if possible, I'd like to close the nominations for Stupidest Thing Ever on Design Observer. Other comments, critical and otherwise, are as always welcome.
Michael Bierut
01.13.08 at 04:58

Umm.... I can't imagine a screen-lock or some kind of online verification system deterring the theft of iPods. Anyone who has paid any attention to the massive effort to 'unlock' the iPhone, or to Microsoft's treadmill effort to lock down windows, would know that it would take hackers maybe a matter of minutes to find a way around any kind of software solution.

Maybe they could implement some kind of biometric device into the click-wheel, but even that is ultimately a software solution, and would likely be cracked.

So I guess I agree with the original post. Apple should just make less-desirable products. It's the only truly responsible thing to do.
Nick Schlax
01.13.08 at 06:32

The general reaction to this article is hugely and disturbingly significant.

There is now considerable research that demonstrates the role that design plays in crime. That this research is seemingly unknown to most of those who have commented is perhaps the most depressing issue here. Uninformed comment, which verges on personalised abuse of the author, is a sad commentary on the intellectual state of design at its most critical juncture in its history. The article has been described as 'asinine', 'silly', 'worst article', 'inane' 'utterly ridiculous', 'useless', etc. by many people. This I find curious, because from my perspective Cheryl has contributed one of the most useful and well observed pieces I have read here in a long time. The negative response that it has attracted reflects its usefulness, so well done Cheryl!

The article is useful because it highlights the ignorance of the design community, which has been vented with a passion here. Quite why its has been expressed so forcefully is curious, if not disturbing. When there are many issues that we should be getting passionate about, I find myself somewhat depressed that it is this that has galvanised such rabid negativity. But on the upside, it has resulted in some amusing and revealing comments. Tselentis argues: "Blaming the Apple and the iPod for crime is like blaming the Burger King and the Big Mac for the obesity problem." Um... actually yes. I think the evidence is pretty well sorted on that one.

So, let us consider the key argument here.....

Today, much of what design is asked to do is to create desire. That's fine. It leads to some wonderful, beautiful and surprising product - just like the iPod. But it today's highly inequitable and complex world, if we create desire, then we are creating temptation - the temptation to take what is not ours. So, if we do not consider both desire and temptation in the design process, then we are being irresponsible. This is not about making products less desirable, but simply about making them less 'stealable' which is a different issue entirely. Criminologists have defined a class of products as CRAVED which drive much street crime. These products are:
Concealable
Removable
Available
Valuable
Enjoyable, and
Disposable

The iPod fits this definition exactly, as do mobile phones. The design challenge with the iPod is to reduce the disposability. If the iPod was unusable once stolen, then its attraction to potential offenders would be significantly reduced. This is not about reducing its enjoyability as a beautifully designed object. If we were to do this, then crime related to iPod theft would fall. But where is the evidence for this assertion? Well actually there are a significant number of well researched studies which support this. But rather than provide a load of footnoted references that a couple of minutes of idle googling could come up with, let me provide one example.

Research shows that most crime is opportunistic: provide the opportunity and it will occur, remove it and it will disappear. The world's first postage stamp - the Penny Black - was introduced in 1840, and lasted in circulation for just over one year. Why? Well because it led to a "crime harvest" and turned most of the people in the UK in criminal offenders. Simply because of the design of the stamp. Being black it could only be franked with red ink, and red ink was water soluble. So the otherwise law abiding citizens of the UK, once they had received and read their letter, their first job was to carefully remove and wash the stamp so that they could use it again - an early example of recycling. Yes, as one comment above says, products don't create crime - people do - but products can provide opportunities or temptations.

In the UK we have been pursuing Design Against Crime - http://www.designagainstcrime.org/ - for many years. I have run projects that have explored the positive impact that design can play in crime prevention, as have others such as my colleagues at Central St Martins College of Art and Design - http://www.designagainstcrime.com/

So can I suggest that people read all this research before they sound off. Design has a contribution to make to reducing crime, and Cheryl's comments are most welcome in raising the debate on this. But this debate is only meaningful if it are informed, and is not simply reflecting popular prejudices on crime and the causes of crime.


Mike Press
01.13.08 at 06:34

Wow. I did not know DO readers could act so negatively about an essay. A critique is fine, but personal insults? Come on guys, we are all in this together.
lola M
01.13.08 at 06:47

companies have long used design to insulate themselves from complaint by the public. apple creating something people desperately want, then trading responsibility for opportunism, is nothing new.

in the beginning of the 20th century, a lot of small american towns were beautifully designed and built by manufacturers who then sold the homes to their employees for prices just out of escape's reach, therefore trapping many of their employees in beautiful prisons dressed up to look like opportunity. probably felt a lot like indentured servitude.

it's completely obvious for a designer to point to apple design as an indicator of How Important Design Can Be, and also redolent of designer insecurity. that is what disappoints me so much about this essay.

this would have been fine looking at a variety of companies alongside apple; they's not doing much different about personal security from, say, motorola or LG -- and their KRZR is certainly as beautiful and valuable as an ipod is. how come we're not talking about how many thefts have happened from a chocolate? is it because they're crap, or because cheryl's a designer and therefore sees apple all around her and is more prone to focusing on that? i think it's the latter.

i also wonder if we'd be having this discussion to begin with if apple's marketing didn't continually shriek about how well-designed their work is. it feels less like their work is actually impeccably designed, and more like it's designed to make us believe it's impeccably designed. i think the actual problem is that apple is irresponsibly marketing something as high design, when it's really not far from being disposable. but in practice their work strikes me as a cartoon embodiment of the characteristics many would describe as belonging to objets: white and glossy, black and glossy, silver and burnished. and frankly, my ipod's difficult-to-replace battery died a rather untimely death after a year. not very well-considered if you ask me.

but there is a nugget of intelligence in the essay. cheryl's asking for a company to think beyond the exchange of money for an object. however, i don't think a culture of responsibility exists in many business communities which would lead apple to care care what would happen to either their customers or the objects once the exchange has happened. for most of our history as a market-driven economy, we've focused on the exchange but not a lot beyond it. even now, care from a company is pretty rare. BMW's lately putting care packages into their base car price, and nau does a lot of talking about how their materials are ecologically full-circle -- not to mention donating 5% of the purchase price to a charity of the customer's choice. but those concepts are pretty new.
pk
01.13.08 at 07:48

Hey Mike Press - could you point us to some studies that have assessed the before/after effects of anti-theft design? The stuff I've seen from Ekblom is largely prescriptive rather than evaluative. I looked at the case studies on your site, and how consideration for reducing crime was integrated into the design process, but I'd like to see some stuff on the actual outcomes - did you measure how successful these things (e.g. Blazer store, Ashdel I+) were in reducing crime? Cheers.
Ralphy
01.13.08 at 08:05

There is now considerable research that demonstrates the role that design plays in crime. That this research is seemingly unknown to most of those who have commented is perhaps the most depressing issue here.

to Mike Press: what research are you referring to? It seems sort of flimsy to say that supporting evidence exists and then not identify any of it. John Kaliski in the posts above took on the research that the author cited, so if there is something else that you think is missing I think it's your responsibility to identify it and not just castigate the participants (including the author) in this slugfest for not already knowing what you know.
plakaboy
01.13.08 at 08:08

What ever happened to personal responsibility? My iPod gets stolen, so I'm going to blame its design. I eat a Whopper, so I'm going to sue BK for an expanding waist line.

The real question is: why are we encouraging consumers to act more and more like helpless children who can't think for themselves?

If this correlation really turns epidemic, where consumers start to realize, hey, by listening to this iPod, I'm likely going to kill myself, wouldn't you think that the consumer craze would die down and, in normal capitalistic fashion, a bad product would be weeded out? At that point, I think Apple would have enough incentive to think about a new solution, albeit no one (including the author) is about to say they've thought of one.

By the way, I think everyone's entitled to opinion here, and if they want to say "this is the worst post ever," then it should be viewed as simply a more efficient way of expressing an opposing view. Geeze. Has it always been this Big Brother around here?
CC
01.13.08 at 08:29

What ever happened to personal responsibility?

Design has real effects in the world, otherwise it would be a meaningless task. 'Personal responsibility' is not infinite and is moderated by the environment in which we find ourselves, ergo design matters - the question is how.

If this correlation really turns epidemic, where consumers start to realize, hey, by listening to this iPod, I'm likely going to kill myself, wouldn't you think that the consumer craze would die down and, in normal capitalistic fashion, a bad product would be weeded out?

Yeah, only after enough people die/are injured/suffer, dissuading others from buying until the product becomes unprofitable (see: Ford Pinto). I don't think that's a great moral baseline for design.

By the way, I think everyone's entitled to opinion here, and if they want to say "this is the worst post ever," then it should be viewed as simply a more efficient way of expressing an opposing view.

Since when did efficiency trump all other values? Perhaps we should prize kindness, consideration, and making a meaningful contribution more.
Ralphy
01.13.08 at 09:02

Hi, Ralphy. Thanks for your very kind response.

Sure, design matters. Otherwise we'd all be jobless. But for us to focus more attention (blame?) on the design of a product over the criminal/murderer in these situations is a bit...scary to me. My opinion.

I'm not sure if it's fair to compare a Pinto to a music player. In this case, the iPod is not harming us by mechanical failure. And at any rate, I guess Apple should be responsible for all the deaths caused by robbery. Sort of like LV shouldn't make such an ostentatious bag that screams, rob me. Or credit cards shouldn't make such a show of saying, "I have money here."

When did ANYTHING trump a freedom to opinion? You can only have an opinion if you word it precisely how the moderator wants it? And who defines what is kind and considerate around here? I guess...you?
CC
01.13.08 at 09:19

"... Research shows that most crime is opportunistic: provide the opportunity and it will occur, remove it and it will disappear. ..."

"...if we create desire, then we are creating temptation - the temptation to take what is not ours."


This fallacious rationale is not unlike what the Taliban and Wahhabist use in imposing the burkha on women. Or the justification of female genital mutilation in parts of Africa. It's also similar to the attempt by Hong Kong conservatives who blamed the city's crime wave of sexual assaults (in the early 90s) on the prevailing fashion of mini-skirts.


How can designers aspire to be social engineers when they perpetuate such convoluted hypothesis that essentially absolves criminals of their actions. Are there exceptions to self-restraint? Don't blame Adam for eating the forbidden fruit? Blame the one who planted it?


Thomas Nguy
01.13.08 at 09:45

Slap a warning label on the packaging that contains those white earbuds. Once that's done, potential users will know that this way of listening to their mp3 player will not only increase their risk of hearing loss, but also alert criminals to the presence of a hot piece of technology in their pocket.
David Jefferson
01.13.08 at 09:53

Oy

One of my fellow (and he was a guy) students when I was obtaining my M.E.Des. (Master of Environmental Design) degree looked at using STEP (Security Through Environmental Planning) concepts to make a community safer.

A summation of his conclusion was that as long as one designed both business and residential environments to allow for, among other things, proper lighting and encouraged open areas that pedestrians would use, most petty crime problems would be effectively eliminated.

It's a great theory, but. as many planners would attest, not exactly effective in the real world.

While the concept or implementation of some ilk of STEP may be part of the premise of this article (and I'll grant the benefit of the doubt here, because, frankly, it is not exactly obvious), such a theory or hypothesis is not spelled out or specific details even mentioned.

And without such a background, it's not surprising that there is a certain amount of, ah, behaviour that would not be out of place at the neighbourhood fire hydrant. (And frankly, I think most of it is justified.)

Perhaps if this theory had not been so speciously postulated, but explained in detail with understandably logical examples, there would be fewer people treating it like utter crap.
L.M. Cunningham
01.13.08 at 11:55

Mike Press: "The article is useful because it highlights the ignorance of the design community, which has been vented with a passion here ... why its has been expressed so forcefully is curious, if not disturbing ... on the upside, it has resulted in some amusing and revealing comments."

Hmm, what words come to mind here? Paternalistic? Supercilious?

As the discussion winds down, I have to say that the prevailing skepticism here about Ms. Weese's views has renewed my faith in the basic common sense of my fellow designers.
williamP
01.14.08 at 02:59

Hi!
I think that the debate over design and crime is very interesting. But, personally, I find the arguments here very extreme.
I dugg this story on digg.com
http://digg.com/apple/Is_Apple_Soft_on_Crime
to open a dialogue about the subject crime - design.

Design Observer is very interesting, even if I don't agree with it most of the times.

Regards.
Charis Tsevis
01.14.08 at 08:26

"comments claim design has no real power or influence anyway!"

You have no claim to that statement at all. Design and advertising have plenty of effects (not a single comment on here said they don't), but this article claim its effect is the killing of the mother of that poor girl.

Why take things out of context for a desperation to make us sound ignorant when it is obvious that there is nothing wrong with making a successful campaign to sell product.

Why is Ipod ads may be responsible? Because it is so successful? That is the only thing it did wrong. When you design an ad for a product, do you go... Well I want it to be successful... but not TOO successful. No firm will ever hire you, and if someone do, I will call or write them a letter to tell them not to hire you.

Again, people kill a lot of people for different things, shoes, girlfriends, bible.. everything. We can't let bad people and their act make us live in fear and shape our societies in accordance to their evil. If we do, they win.

I don't know if that little girl regretted she bought an IPod.

But ultimately she did nothing wrong. By saying that IPod somehow TRICKED her into buying their product, then that is also claiming she is partly to blame for this tragedy.

Those bastards tried to take her property and they commit the most horrible crime. How can you people think of blaming IPod, or her for owning it.
Panasit Ch
01.14.08 at 09:39

Cheryl Tower: Since Apple is clearly aware of the potential risks...is it a stretch to ask the company to be frank with consumers about the correlation between the iPod and violent crime?

Do people really need to be told that carrying items of significant financial value makes them a target for violent crime? Do you believe that the jewelry and handbag industries need include warning lables? This is an issue of common sense—and I doubt that Apple can inject people with much of that. Apple shouldn't need to include negative information in it's dialogs with consumers simply because some people don't have the sense to put the white headphones away now and then.
james puckett
01.14.08 at 10:00

A very interesting article. And an intersting debate. I just wanted to make a couple of clarifications. First, the original article was written last July and August, long before 2007 crime numbers were available, so the data are limited to 2005 and 2006 FBI numbers. Over those two years, robberies (muggings) increased by about 10%. That's about 40,000 additional muggings, and it's those additional crimes we were writing about. The data that are not - and never will be - available are any measures of what was taken in the robbery - local police only report total numbers of crimes to the FBI.

Second, I don't believe that the decline in muggings in 2007 refutes our hypothesis. We state in the introduction to our paper that we anticipated that muggings would decline in the near term, "The good news is that the iCrime wave may be quick to wane; since iPods have become so ubiquitous, many of those who covet one likely already have one."

Finally, I would like to note that many people who commented on this article in other venues were outraged at the thought that their actions could in any way contribute to an increased risk of victimization. It's an open question whether that means that the design community or any one else should step into the void to protect people who do not believe they should have to take precautions.

Thanks for allowing me to comment.
John Roman
01.14.08 at 11:05

At the Park Street station (Boston), the ipod image on the poster is carved out and taken. Interesting that someone felt the urge to take it even though it is just a print on paper. I feel like writing "this is not a pipe" underneath every time I saw it.
Oz
01.14.08 at 11:23

Pretend for a moment that the author's view is correct. Is Apple also responsible for an increase in pedestrian fatalities?

I won't debate social responsibility, but what the hell ever happened to individual accountability? Wait. Can't there be someone else we can blame?

If Apple had knowledge of carrying an iPod in your pocket leading to cancer, that'd be one thing.

Sadly, I think iPod theft has more to do with the fact that we are living in the decline of Western civilization. For further proof, please pause for a moment of truth.
trevin
01.14.08 at 12:54

the decline of western civilization.

(pause)

another greek period razed.
I'd write the corinthians, but you all know they never answer letters.
raised dot
01.14.08 at 01:15

Oh man, just scrap the white headphones and don't take it out of your pocket and you're less likely to be an iPod theft target. Traveling through NYC often , the first thing I did when i got mine was buy a generic pair of headphones. Besides those white things aren't that good and don't stay in your ear that well. It's consumer pride that keeps those white headphones as a status symbol and places a big cross-hair on them.

I have had my iPod stolen, but it was by a (now former) friend of a friend. Thankfully, I had registered it a few days prior, so i had the serial number accessible to point at him and say "That's mine jerk."

Crime isn't apple's issue, I'd be all about a lock and code though so it renders the iPod somewhat useless to the thieves.
ammre
01.14.08 at 01:54

Thanks for this article. I have struggled for a long time to find a clear explanation of the limits on the power of design to CHANGE people - and this essay does it perfectly.


Remember when the crack epidemic was blamed on pagers?


LeMel
01.14.08 at 05:03

In response to my earlier post, Thomas Nguy asserts: "This fallacious rationale is not unlike what the Taliban and Wahhabist use in imposing the burkha on women....." In an odd way I'm beginning to rather enjoy the "shock and awe" approach to criticism that is displayed by many of those posting here. But rather than join in myself, I will address my comments to the very reasonable request made by Ralphy: "could you point us to some studies that have assessed the before/after effects of anti-theft design? The stuff I've seen from Ekblom is largely prescriptive rather than evaluative."

It's a fair point, Ralphy, that evaluative studies are not exactly thick on the ground in this field, but I hope that I can point you in the direction of the research that does exist. First, a little background.... the idea of Design Against Crime has its roots in CPTED - Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. The idea that the design of the built environment - such as housing estates - can be a determinant factor in levels of crime is well developed, and has been established through evaluative studies in the UK, US and elsewhere. For example, here in the UK the Secured by Design initiative provides guidelines on the design of housing to reduce crime. Here is an evaluation study of one Secured by Design project: http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/securedesign/securedesign12.htm

A criticism made of CPTED is that of displacement - in other words, if you design against crime in one location then the crime will simply be displaced elsewhere having no impact on overall crime levels. In fact research suggests that the opposite is generally the case - not only will crime in the one specific location be reduced, but crime levels in adjoining areas will also fall and that - even if there is some displacement - this will still lead to a net fall in crime. The evaluation study above refers to this research.

So, Design Against Crime has sought to take the principles of CPTED and explore the extent to which they are applicable to other areas of design - such as products. Clarke's research study "Hot Products: Understanding, Anticipating and Reducing Demand for Stolen Goods" published by the UK Home Office, introduces the idea of CRAVED products (which I mentioned in my previous post): http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/prgpdfs/fprs112.pdf

The research we did began with a series of international case studies of design projects - covering built environment, product, fashion, etc - that had some kind of quantifiably positive impact on crime reduction. These are available from:
http://powerofdesign.aiga.org/resources/content/5/0/documents/Evidence1.pdf
http://powerofdesign.aiga.org/resources/content/5/0/documents/Evidence2.pdf
http://powerofdesign.aiga.org/resources/content/5/0/documents/Evidence3.pdf
http://powerofdesign.aiga.org/resources/content/5/0/documents/Evidence4.pdf

Then we pulled all of this together, developed a series of workshops with the UK design community, and out of this produced a toolkit of methods and processes for designers:
http://www.crimereduction.homeoffice.gov.uk/business/business32.htm

We write about all of this in an excellent book called Designing out Crime from Products and Systems Edited by Ronald V. Clarke and Graeme R. Newman. This book also contains other chapters, some of which refer to evaluative studies. The full text of the book is available here:
http://www.popcenter.org/Library/CrimePrevention/Volume%2018/index18.htm

We cannot design OUT crime, and I have never claimed otherwise. Crime is a highly complex social problem that requires policy across all government departments, the voluntary sector, business and communities to address its causes, methods and consequences. However, I would argue strongly that design has the power and potential to contribute in a positive way to the reduction of crime. To suggest that this is not the case is demeaning to design and those members of the profession who have, through an informed creative position, demonstrated how design can contribute to crime reduction.
Mike Press
01.14.08 at 05:22

I think Cheryl raises a good point. The mistake she makes is to focus only on the iPod (or Apple in particular.) Apple is an easy target, but the problem extends beyond that, and there are many designs which create even more crime, but because they aren't as high profile as Apple, they don't have to answer for their actions.

For instance, while a great deal of muggings target iPods, in fact a far greater number of muggings (along with other violent crimes) have been instigated by the design of American dollar bills. And yet--amazingly--there has been no public outcry for the design firm responsible for our currency's design to step up and address the problem.

(Interestingly enough, looking on Google I can't seem to find any record of what firm was responsible for the bill design at all.)

In fact, in a way Apple--and every other producer of luxury products--is a victim of the dollar bill design, because without the inherent security problems of the bill, no one would be stealing iPods in the first place.
Jay J
01.14.08 at 06:54

Wow, that's great stuff Mike P. Thank you.

Crime is a highly complex social problem that requires policy across all government departments, the voluntary sector, business and communities to address its causes, methods and consequences.

Yes, which is why the 'design is everything and therefore designers can solve all problems, and take credit for any past solution' hubris is so tiring, especially when those uttering it can't back it up to save their life (or reputation).

But you've shown that's not everyone. So of course you deserve to be repeated here as well: design has the power and potential to contribute in a positive way to the reduction of crime. To suggest that this is not the case is demeaning to design and those members of the profession who have, through an informed creative position, demonstrated how design can contribute to crime reduction.
Ralphy
01.14.08 at 08:54

While iPod's exterior design is surely elegant, sleek, shiny, minimalist (we could all go on and on about the beloved objet, could we not? Imagine a Shakespearean sonnet in the age of iPod... or don't. please.) I don't think these exterior qualities are what make it so covetable.

Rather, I posit the "design" qualities that make iPod unique in its covetableness -- worthy of theft and murder (to the unhinged who are so inclined) -- are technological and existential: its ability to plug and play; to complement the multitudinous lives of its many users; our ability to culturally embrace it without a missed step; its uncanny ability to reflect our selves as reflected in the art in which we witness ourselves; its ability to fit so seamlessly, so simply, so curiously into our lives.

If this is the case, that iPod's greatest design quality is its ability to seamlessly become a part of our lives, the question must be asked, "is there a flaw in the design when iPod ceases to enable our lives and instead, inhibits them?" The logical next question is if iPod's designers have an ethical responsibility for fixing this design flaw.

Surely there are a lot of suppositions here, but that doesn't mean the topic isn't worthy of conversation. Ms. Towler Weese's article was no doubt written in an attempt to spark a public debate about an unconventional design topic. Hers is not a polemic, and yet many of the responses it elicited were full of ire and rarely an ounce of the inquisitive spirit that propelled her to ask a question. I would expect more from people who are meant to find creative solutions to problems most people don't even know are there.
Eric Martinez
01.14.08 at 11:43

I knew that when pressed that "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design" or CPTED would be raised to demonstrate how designers could address through manipulation of design factors anti-social behavior. Oscar Newman first raised these issues in relationship to architectural and urban design in the early 1970's in his book "Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design". I read this book as an undergraduate in the mid-1970's and have watched the movement expand since. In the late 1990's I participated in urban design workshops in San Diego where the police department was the lead agency in planning the future of crime ridden neighborhoods and CPTED methods were at the forefront of their urban planning approach. I remember at the time suggesting along with others that creating defensible space wouldn't much matter if no one had a job. In fact, it is not at all unusual in this day and age for CPTED ideas to be incorporated into most architectural design. Police department review of projects as part of approval processes is also very typical but at the same time policing, and thankfully planning, have moved on.

Since the 1990's, even as the CPTED methodology has become more prevalent, policing seems to have adopted more virtual geographic information system (GIS)-based systems to locate and in essence prevent crimes, particularly property crimes, before they happen. The most prominent proponent of this approach that I am aware of is William Bratton, the current police chief of Los Angeles and former police chief of New York City, who utilizing GIS platforms has adopted aggressive "broken windows" policies and been very successful at isolating pockets of crime and eliminating them through selective and visible police presence. This raises an interesting point, management as well as design seems to matter and management, management of crime if you will, seems to be working just as well - if not better - then placing all the chips on restructuring the environment (I feel confident this is true in LA and NY where crime has dropped precipitously in the last ten years). Another way of stating this is that redesigning the hardware of urbanism, including the objects of desire on our person, may be only one small means, and not necessarily the only or most effective one, of isolating and stopping crime.

What does all this have to do with this post? First of all, the negative tone of many of the respondents probably reflects a basic distaste for the linearity of the argument, i.e iPod design = crime. Second, at least for me, the "facts" do not contribute to a discussion of the possibilities of design and designers, only a sensationalism which is too easy to dismiss, thus undermining any good objectives the author might have had. Third, I have a sense based upon experience that the systemic problems of crime have to probably be addressed first and foremost through means which well designed hardware can support but not be a substitute for, i.e. the perfectly designed iPod will only be a stopgap to crime prevention if people do not have a means of living a nurturing life (in this regard maybe figuring out a way to encourage Apple to manufacture iPods in the US would prevent more crime in the US then redesigning the iPod itself). Finally, I have the hopeful sense that there are designers that already address these issues in their work but they do so while struggling against the notion that there are singular design solutions to complex social issues. For them, design is just one of many factors considered in the design of places and products. I think most good environmental and industrial designers already work this way, probably the poster wants to encourage us to work this way as well, but the essence of the post's argument harks back to exhausted ideals of design and designers heroically saving the world through better acts of design divorced from their social context. I doubt this is what the poster intended but this is how it came off. The poster has a good core point, design matters, but a weak argument, and in the process or elaborating upon a weak argument makes designing in the contemporary look shallow and associated design processes narrow.
John Kaliski
01.15.08 at 03:05

James Puckett: "Do people really need to be told that carrying items of significant financial value makes them a target for violent crime?"

James, you are misinterpreting my comment here. What I am proposing is that Apple publicly own up to the relationship between the iPod and numerous related murders that have occurred. A couple of passages from the Air Jordan era -- the first criticizing director Spike Lee, an ambassador for Nike at the time -- seem relevant (and echoes are throughout this thread):

"It is almost certainly true that Lee did not intend that anyone would be killed as a consequence of his plugging Air Jordans; it is also likely that he did not intend to attract the offer of a major advertising contract by dressing Mars Blackmon in Air Jordans. But those are the tales events tell.... It would be wrong to blame Spike Lee for failing to foresee the unintended consequences of his art. It would be the right thing for Spike Lee to acknowledge that bad consequences have occurred. Even Exxon has gone that far. But of course Exxon can afford to because it sells oil, arguably something people need for their material well-being. Lee has no resource besides his estimable talent and his inestimable celebrity."

"But, of course, these assailants aren't simply taking clothes from their victims. They're taking status. Something is very wrong with a society that has created an underclass that is slipping into economic and moral oblivion, an underclass in which pieces of rubber and plastic held together by shoelaces are sometimes worth more than a human life. The shoe companies have played a direct role in this. With their million-dollar advertising campaigns, superstar spokesmen and over-designed, high-priced products aimed a impressionable young people, they are creating status from thin air to feed those who are starving for self-esteem."
Cheryl Towler Weese
01.15.08 at 08:26

wow. should we blame nike and reebok for all the sneakers that were killed for? should we blame the automobile industry for creating red vehicles because their theft rate is higher? besides, putting security devices in/on the iPod family isn't going to stop anything. it's not like a mugger is going to stand next to you and try to log-in before he takes off. this is ridiculous. blame apple for toxic factories? yes, they can control that. blame them for creating the one defining product of the decade? wow.
John Mindiola III
01.15.08 at 08:42

I have a design solution: load it with bullets. then, when someone has ipod headphones on, you'd know they're packing heat and would stay the hell away.

stupid questions deserve stupid answers. although, I must admit, it is probably the only 'design' solution that would work. of course then rather than being killed for ipods, kids would be killing with ipods.
mike
01.15.08 at 09:27

Ok, I thought we got the blunt criticisms out of the way; the point has been made. CTW has been kind enough to keep up and keep responding, her and some other posters are trying to move the discussion in a reasonable direction.
Ralphy
01.15.08 at 10:46

I wonder if the bigger complaint is that the article says the producer should care about the level of crimes relating to their product, and that's unfair to make _their_ issue, or if it's just that someone said something bad about Apple.
Rj
01.15.08 at 10:56

When the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911, the Paris Police blamed the Louvre and then in turn the Louvre blamed investigators.

If you own something subtle and exquisite please remember to always protect it.
Rocco Piscatello
01.15.08 at 01:04

Definitely a correlation worth thinking about, although I don't think the design of the iPod is the root of the issue. The design is just a manifestation, or symptom, of Apple's bigger strategy of becoming a merchant of "cool." Their entire message is designed to give the impression that anyone can be "cool" by purchasing their products (and I'm saying this without a grain of judgment, being a chronic Mac user). In effect, Apple is promising cool via ownership of the product, instilling almost a sense of entitlement to "cool" based on owning.

Now here's the issue: "cool" has become such a powerful currency for status in pop culture. Especially in youth culture, where most of the crime we're talking about here is taking place. The reason why we're seeing the correlation with the iPod more than other Apple products is simply that other stuff is confined to the home/office. But the iPod is both cheaper than other Apple products (thus available to even less affluent people who live in less affluent areas) and mostly used outside the home. In the street. Where "gangs" and others with an already existing sense of entitlement to everything can indulge that sense by going after "cool."

So, in short, I don't think it's the design -- it's the entire message, which design is simply a reflection, not source, of.

Just a thought.
Maria
01.15.08 at 02:06

(oops, dunno what happened with the italics there -- sorry.)
Maria
01.15.08 at 02:15

from Joseph Drake Rodham.

The Culprit Fay

But another errand must be done
Ere thy crime be lost for aye;


Nancy
01.15.08 at 02:20

iPod theft is even showed on TV. In the TV series Heroes the some irish thiefs are hired to steal a container filled with iPods. How cool is that?
neu
01.15.08 at 02:26

Statistics can be twisted any which way the author wants. You can add a name to the organization and it does not guarantee that it is legit.

The fundamental issue here is economics. Ipods are in demand. They are easy to spot and ipod users are easy targets. Petty theft is always more prevalent than grand larceny. That is a choice.

On the flip side of things, Apple and its consumers have a choice. They can choose to not purchase an Ipod. They can choose to stop manufacturing ipods. They can put RFID chips in them, (at which point people stop choosing to buy). An independent manufacturer can choose to make camoflage ipod covers!!! (this is also free-market economics)

There is lots of choice, and our actions will eventually declare a winner or loser. The Austrian Economists...Mises, Hayek and others have written about this beautifully.

Cheryl's article asks a question. No harm in that.

Do we suffer from a blame society? Yes.
Can we ask responsible questions using observatory evidence? Don't we do that everyday?

Do we have a responsibility to our society? Social order is a creation of individuals. Because producers harmonize their efforts with the consumer; the consumer wields great power to vote with their pocketbook.
Scott Theisen
01.15.08 at 03:05

We should be asking ourselves WHY people are mugging and murdering people for ipods. Why they mug people for money, for cell phones, for anything at all. Probably because they don't have these things, probably because they are worse off than most of us. Addressing poverty and gaps between social class can help solve this problem, not designing a big brother ipod that is impossible to use and loses all of its stellar qualities. ipods are not the problem, poverty and crime is the problem, and to focus solely on ipods is to miss the bigger problem entirely. Kind of like the "design for the other 90%" exhibition...design solutions for all the little problems, not for the big problems that cause the little problems.
jro
01.15.08 at 04:27

the question i took away from this article is:
if apple is aware of how their product is being used (as people have stated, many ipod listeners are walking around completely oblivious to their surroundings making them susceptible to robbery), should they take this into account when designing their product? yes, definitely, yes.

i don't think that this is an issue of blame or evading personal responsibility (clearly you shouldn't be listening to your ipod at night in nyc). apple isn't to blame for every ipod robbery. but i don't think this is about who is at fault, but whether the design decisions made my apple should take into account how their consumers are using their products and how their products are affecting their consumer's life. shouldn't apple consider how their ipods are fully used? shouldn't this be a part of their design research?

Obviously, robbery is an unintended, undesigned consequence of owning an ipod, but apple is definitely aware that a large percentage of their consumers are listening to their product in unsafe ways, in unsafe environments. it's a bit strange that they wouldn't acknowledge this in their design decisions. for instance, apple reminds you to not steal music on their packaging, they remind you about the dangers of listening at loud volumes--why do they not at least address the fact that their listeners are using ipods in unsafe ways?

why not consider the "safety" aspects of owning an ipod? why not design some level of safety of ownership into the ipod? if apple does in fact address these issues, does that mean that they must then be held accountable for whether these safety features work? if you acknowledge the problem and try to solve it, does that mean you have to be completely accountable for when/if your solution fails?

on a different note, i think this article raised several interesting questions, and was definitely not The Worst Post Ever. It did, however, inspire many comments that would qualify for Worst Comment Ever, Meanest Comment Ever, and Most Irrelevant and Asinine Comment Ever.
SN
01.15.08 at 07:04

Per the linked to article on DO's Observed to problems "we'll simply innovate our way out of them" i think gets to the heart of this all.

While my initial reaction was that of the masses, the idea of solving the issue of drunk driving without making a sign or billboard campaign intrigued me to look inside at how i solve problems.

Sensibly, in that scenario shouldn't all cars come automatically equipped with sensors that can detect whether or not the driver is of legal standing to operate a vehicle.

Currently, in assorted states, this technology is only implemented after you receive a DUI and possibly risk the lives of others. I know from personal relation as my cousin had this implemented in her car.

Of course this could be bypassed by a sober individual engaging the breathalyzer, but that should be a fix in the works to prevent such potential harm before it happens.

So where is the criticism for Ford, GM, Toyota in all of this?

Even the Sync system being installed in new Ford vehicles should not escape criticism as I for one would compare driving and talking in any form(of course we all are guilty) to writing an email or chatting and effectively listening to a phone call at the same time. The later's potential harm is of course minimal comparatively, but it's the idea of distraction and possible outcomes that one should consider firstly.

I'd be grateful to any behavioral scientists or the like reading this to back up my broad examples. haha

I could have swore i read in recent months that Apple applied for patents related to remote laptop lockdown or something of the sort.

If someone could find that for me, that might prove to be an interesting counter example to Cheryl's assertion that Apple need be more attentive to such issues.



Josh
01.15.08 at 08:31

John Kaliski: "I have a sense based upon experience that the systemic problems of crime have to probably be addressed first and foremost through means which well designed hardware can support but not be a substitute for, i.e. the perfectly designed iPod will only be a stopgap to crime prevention if people do not have a means of living a nurturing life.... I have the hopeful sense that there are designers that already address these issues in their work but they do so while struggling against the notion that there are singular design solutions to complex social issues. For them, design is just one of many factors considered in the design of places and products."

I'm asking whether or not Apple's designers -- graphic, product, and interface -- might play a role in developing solutions here, not that they direct the performance.

I agree with you that design can only be seen in the context of much larger social and economic concerns. Like Maria, I think the fundamental issue might lie with Apple's status as a "merchant of cool", the fact that the iPod has become the ultimate status symbol for teens desperate to bolster their self-esteem, and the sobering reality of a subculture that more often than not chooses violence as a route to achievement. Design certainly cannot be the only, nor the most powerful factor in trying to address these complex issues.

I think that most of us become designers not to save the world but because we want, or feel a need, to pursue this profession. Having made that choice, perhaps we ought to consider how we can do so and still serve our community responsibly. It sounds to me like you've given your architectural practice that level of careful consideration. I wonder whether Apple's designers couldn't as well.
Cheryl Towler Weese
01.15.08 at 10:42

Wow. You guys are really excitable!

Maybe I'm removed from it so don't have a strong enough opinion (for several reasons, ipods haven't really caught on in India) to get abrasively vocal about it but I'm really surprised at the fact that you guys are designers and aren't excited by the design opportunity that Cheryl's talking about here. Instead you're filling up comments with 'this is the stupidest post' etc.????

Abandon the finger pointing and stop for a moment to just spend some time thinking about a potential design challenge: we have a small and expensive piece of electronics that has a massive demand, lending itself easily to theft and resale. As designers, what innovative solution can we come up with to reduce theft?

How about talking about THAT? I thought that's the kind of thing we were all here for...
Andy Malhan
01.16.08 at 12:43

Hello,

I am the founder of GadgetTrak (www.gadgettrak.com) we provide the tracking software for iPods and other gadgets that you mention. We have actual recovered several iPods as well as other devices:

http://www.gadgettrak.com/blog/category/recoveries/

What you may find interesting is that in a lot of the cases we have seen, the thief knows the owner.

It is not just iPods that are the problem here, we see many different types of devices being stolen. It is a reflection of our ever increasing mobile society really, as devices get smaller, more expensive. It really is unfair to place blame on Apple alone, they just happen to have the most popular product out there. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our recoveries or additional statistics regarding gadget and laptop theft. If you are at MacWorld feel free to stop by our booth at S-1338 to discuss.
Ken Westin
01.16.08 at 02:45

Ms. Weese: "What I am proposing is that Apple publicly own up to the relationship between the iPod and numerous related murders that have occurred."

"Own up"? How about the U.S. Mint "owns up" to the relationship between 100-dollar bills and "numerous related murders"?

I'm sorry, but this is idiocy. Language like this ends up hurting the cause of socially responsible design, because it makes advocates look like idiots.
williamP
01.16.08 at 05:35

I guess wireless headphones could be an option, then nobody would see the cord.
If Apple wanted to be responsible, they would make sure the I pod did not break after about a year.
People who walk around with expensive, easy to steal products with their audio guard down due to blasting music seem to be a major part of the problem.

And where do these people live anyway..here in South Hampton we don't have these issues...

I-pod lojack anyone?

I-pod remote self destruct button?
flaherty
01.16.08 at 08:29

re: Andy Malhan... "spend some time thinking about a potential design challenge: we have a small and expensive piece of electronics that has a massive demand, lending itself easily to theft and resale. As designers, what innovative solution can we come up with to reduce theft?"

that is the exact same point i was going to make, and i did post a very similar statement (though maybe slightly more verbally convoluded) over on underconsideration.com/speakup

adam
01.16.08 at 01:21

To the negative responders: A client hires you to design a widget. When the client suggests security and social responsibility are high priority design considerations do you respond by slamming your hands down on the boardroom table and calling him an idiot?

The extreme replies, positive and negative, lead me to think that this is one of the more compelling and thought-provoking DO posts.
Andrew
01.16.08 at 02:02

re: Andy Malhan... "spend some time thinking about a potential design challenge: we have a small and expensive piece of electronics that has a massive demand, lending itself easily to theft and resale. As designers, what innovative solution can we come up with to reduce theft?"

that is the exact same point i was going to make, and i did post a very similar statement (though maybe slightly more verbally convoluded) over on underconsideration.com/speakup

i do not think we should focus on blaming apple, but instead focus on a new design opportunity. (the points about also blaming credit cards, nike and the us mint for producing benjamins are all valid points, but we should move on from that)

adam
01.16.08 at 02:25

unexpected things that happened from buying a iPod mini:

1. when you are in an emotional pit, once or twice in a lifetime a silly electronic may lift you out of a rut, especially if you share that with your son.

2. never share an iPod with your son, he will inevitably drop it when sliding down the banister of the stairway because his mom bought such an impulsive buy after not buying him candybars at the checkout counter all those years and then he will dent that iPod mini.

3. pirating, umm getting music from your very large social network of people, sometimes has a noble cause

4. pirating music is still against the law sometimes, but we are working on that..

5. Your son can tune you into some really cool cultures and music from far ends of the earth.

6. The far ends of the earth aren't so far on the internet, but really far out in my mind.

7. My mind is more wired for percussion than melody.

8. Harmoney makes the world go round.

9. iPod minis don't do well in your pocket if you do jump in a lake because you are the third son and always get pushed or catapulted around. Sometimes these things bring out hidden resentments of birth order that you can make right in blog posts and then make wrong again.

10. St. Jude there will always be hope. You along with Joseph and Jesus must have been pretty cool cats, and hung around with some pretty smart chicks in the background. Otherwise. you wouldn't have been so smart.

Nancy
01.16.08 at 03:53

The issue here is much bigger than the iPod. In fact, it's similar to debates in the art community over subversive literature or music that 'makes' kids shoot up their school cafeterias. Can you blame the artist?

Personally, I disagree with the censorship of free artistic expression. But when the artist becomes a designer, and the goal becomes not art but corporate profit, then the issue of how we design, ethically speaking, becomes central. Focusing on the stupidity of blaming Apple for violent crime is quite beside the point.
Anne Stewart
01.16.08 at 04:39

Adam I agree with you... instead of focusing on Apple and their products and the other must have products, why not channel our energy in a DESIGN REVOLUTION TO OVERCOME CRIME. If the design of an MP3 player can create such a sensation, imagine if all designers collaborated and started a revolution to stop all forms of crime.

So instead of sitting there and pointing fingers at others, point it to yourself and say... this is what you have done to fight/prevent crime.
mmb
01.16.08 at 04:48

The issue here is much bigger than the iPod. In fact, it's similar to debates in the art community over subversive literature or music that 'makes' kids shoot up their school cafeterias. Can you blame the artist?

Personally, I disagree with the censorship of free artistic expression. But when the artist becomes a designer, and the goal becomes not art but corporate profit, then the issue of how we design, ethically speaking, becomes central. Focusing on the stupidity of blaming Apple for violent crime is quite beside the point.
Anne Stewart
01.16.08 at 04:48

Back in '05, the NYPD printed and handed out a brochure about gadget theft. There had just been a few attacks on the subway, and it was notable that the MP3 part of the pamphlet was so brand-specific: "Watch your iPod." It also recommended, among other things, that riders "change the earpiece color when riding in public."
Emily Gordon
01.16.08 at 10:44

Theft of the physical object in question is a red herring.

The value of the iPod, indeed of most Apple products isn't the form factor or the touchable object. Its software, and specifically being locked-in to certain kinds of software/licensing/distribution arrangements.

One can imagine the hapless criminal, thrilled at the shiny object in her possession, later realizing that without a computer the 'pod will only play what the former owner placed on the hard drive. Comedy ensues.

Realistically, like most users, our criminal friend will simply "steal" additional content. In this case maybe on a stolen computer, using stolen bandwidth from someone else's wi-fi connection. Still, its not at all unheard of for people to purchase iPods only to realize they're just the tail end of a distribution chain (i.e. what do you mean I need a computer to put music on there?)

Assuming you filled a 40GB HD with legal content - thousands of songs, you'd have spent many times the cost of the hardware. So the well meaning sentiments about design solutions for social responsibility are misplaced in my opinion. The theft problem is easily solved by giving away what is effectively free already
Gary R Boodhoo
01.16.08 at 11:28

William P: "How about the U.S. Mint 'owns up' to the relationship between 100-dollar bills and 'numerous related murders'?"

If Apple doesn't acknowledge the fact that iPod-related murders are occurring, they can't then take the next step and develop solutions to help address the issue. If the U.S. Mint hadn't acknowledged counterfeiting, they wouldn't have redesigned America's paper currency.
cheryl Towler Weese
01.17.08 at 02:02

Cheryl Towler Weese: "If the U.S. Mint hadn't acknowledged counterfeiting, they wouldn't have redesigned America's paper currency."

That's a lame attempt to substitute a completely different issue. When the US government acts against counterfeiters, that has nothing to do with the issue of individuals who desire $100 bills that belong to others.

Not that I was expecting more of you, having seen your previous arguments...
williamP
01.17.08 at 05:50

I like this article even though nobody else seems to.

If Apple can design a beautiful product that's coveted by thieves all over the world, surely they can design a beautiful solution that deters thieves all over the world.

The solution isn't to make iPods ugly, it's to make them beautifully unstealable.
Mark Holland
01.17.08 at 08:42

Good intentions aside, I'd like to offer this quote from author/engineer Henry Petroski as a caveat:

"Devices can be made foolproof, but not damn-fool-proof."
Daniel Green
01.17.08 at 09:16

Why don't we just ban dodgeball next? Let's reward mediocrity and punish excellence. Theft of a desirable, well designed, easy to "move" device is a symptom of a greater social disorder, not an indication of a company who refuses to deal with a problem. Let's just ban excellence in design, then no one would want to steal anything. Neat, hurray, I can't wait.
pnautilus
01.17.08 at 11:14

Yes, there is something Apple can do to prevent crimes amongst iPod owners.

Here are some ideas:

+ For every iPod, they should issue a gun.
+ Add a GPS tracking system to locate stolen iPods
+ Equip every iPod with Kung Fu lessons
+ Put warning label to read "iPod can be stolen"
+ Stop selling iPods to kids under 18
+ Make the cost of iPods cheaper
+ Install a self destruct mechanism
+ Install loud alarm in case stolen
+ Install an exploding ink bomb to located theives
+ Stop selling iPods
ksfkay
01.17.08 at 03:37

In effort to get the ball moving in the right direction, here is some food for thought.

To my mind, you remove/reduce the possibility of theft by somehow associating or locking the device to an authorized person(s).

I can think of a few ways to do this:

Include a fingerprint reader on the ipod - this is an increasingly common feature on modern laptops and with the ipod's economies of scale, could probably be accomplished without adding more than $25 to the cost.

Include a nag module in the software that requires the owner to periodically punch in a code only known to him/her.

Build tracking software into the device.

Lock the device to it's charger so it can only be charged by it's own charger (annoying though - part of the benefit of the popularity is you can go to your buddy's place and say 'hey, can I charge my ipod?' With this solution, you can't do that anymore.)

Andy Malhan
01.17.08 at 11:18

When I got my first iPod in 2002, I immediately bought black headphones for my street use. Well, the iPod earbuds are awful, but the idea that I was walking around with $400 dollars in electronics, made me take that step. Not once have I been even glared at with crime in mind. Might help that I am 6'2", but don't look anywhere near menacing.
Again, it is not Apple's responsibility to ensure that their products are theft proof. Kids get mugged in my Brooklyn neighborhood every day for a $50-$75 dollar Razr, but noone is calling for Motorola's head because of it.
The Apple haters will always be dogging them for something or other, and iPods will still be a luxury item waiting to be stolen.
Mark Weills
01.18.08 at 04:14

Sorry for the gut reaction in my earlier post. It is just that.
Mark Weills
01.18.08 at 04:50

D.Norman on January 11, 2008 10:06 PM

You're an idiot. Your use of f**** indicates your level of intelligence.

Bogiepar
01.19.08 at 07:44

Actually, name calling instead of presenting an actual argument indicates *your* level of intelligence. Swearing indicates strong feelings. Plenty of very intelligent people are unafraid to use strong language to express strong opinions.
D.Norman
01.19.08 at 08:24

D.Norman, I revisited your comments, there is no argument there but simply a list of assertions. Nonetheless, you did indeed post strong feelings on the topic.

I can only conclude that you reserve the right of expression of strong feelings and strong emotions for yourself, yet deny it to others, who must make 'actual arguments' instead.
Sandra Weatherlee
01.20.08 at 02:49

The bipolar nature of the above comments notwithstanding, I find it interesting that posters are struggling to come up with analogies to either support or oppose Ms. Weese's initial article.

The problems surrounding iPod and resulting crime are somewhat unique and can't be compared to carrying cash. iPods are not currency in the same sense as a $100 bill, and does not exist within a government and corporate structure (such as the Federal Mint, law enforcement, and Banks) where the structure presumably is constantly trying to combat theft, counterfeiting, and other related crime. Rather than carry actual cash, banks and retail stores encourage clients to use debit or credit cards, which in turn introduced another set of social problems.

As leaders in design and technology, I think Apple has a responsibility to at least acknowledge the problems of theft and crime associated with their iPod line. They, as well as Dell, IBM, and others definitely have a responsibility to answer to the amount of hardware found in landfills. Ignoring this makes us irresponsible consumers, and designers with obvious limitations.

Designers are now being considered an important part of the Knowledge Economy, and we need to move past aesthetic considerations and think about the bigger picture.
Bonne
01.20.08 at 02:56

Sandra, I appreciate your point, however: clouded by emotion as it may have been, my argument was simply that the "security" measures proposed by other posters would be easy for thieves to circumvent, and simply annoy or impede legitimate users, thereby failing to really address this problem.
D.Norman
01.20.08 at 06:38

"As leaders in design and technology, I think Apple has a responsibility to at least acknowledge the problems of theft and crime associated with their iPod line. They, as well as Dell, IBM, and others definitely have a responsibility to answer to the amount of hardware found in landfills"

The filling up the landfills I can understand, very much so. It's their product and its the central part of THAT problem. But crime is a bit of a stretch. Everybody steals everything and crime is everyone's problem.

To say that apple has to do something, and all I do is defending my rights to blame apple and that would be my part, is very ignorant.

Crime is complex problem and people have been trying to reduce them for centuries. Tasty new product is not at fault. At least not before the criminal's parents, or god forbid you would blame the little girl who bought the thing (how dare she, oh I forgot, she was hypnotized by apple and their ingenious ad and design). She probably blame herself right now. What if she hadn't bought it, OR what if she had not shown that she had it. Her mother would still be alive.

panasit
01.23.08 at 08:21

Well, that's a bit of hyperbolic reasoning. Note the title of the essay is Is Apple Soft on Crime? and not Apple is to Blame for Someone Dying.
Bonne
01.23.08 at 11:40

Cheryl, are you a Zune fan?
shirley
02.03.08 at 11:49

Maybe what we are seeing here in this post is part of our endemic Blame Culture, where we seek to blame others. If you read Robert Reiner's Law and Order:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Law-Order-Honest-Citizens-Control/dp/0745629970/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202110887&sr=1-1

You might see another perspective, that in many ways we are all to blame. The design solution would appear to be to redesign our politics. Our consumerist society and what Reiner calls our Neoliberalist approach to economy is making the poor poorer and the rich richer, creating a rise in crime among both the 'have not's' and the 'want more's' as our culture respects ownership more than responsibility. We need to behave more responsible, consider whether we really need the things we bring into our lives, and if we have to have them, then we act responsibly and not encourage crime by putting these things on show. The dilemma for many people, it would seem, is that the real need for these products is to be seen to own them! We therefore contribute to our own concerns about the world we live in.

The big question then is how do we design a new way of living. Knowing is not enough, and culture can take a long time to change, unless of course some critical event occurs and we begin to work together against a common enemy. Action is required, but concerns about equality and about the environment do not carry immediate feedback or consequences, therefore it is challenging to get concerted engagement. At the end of the day, this world is what we are making it. Either we act as followers and keep it on track, or we act as leaders and start to create change by questioning our engagement, making an example of our new behaviour as innovative.

Some of you might follow this arguement through and suggest scenarios of economic collapse because of reduction in product markets, but keep in mind we can design services too. This world needs balance, where we work to enable engagement with a greater good. I'm not saying it will be an easy change, just that the world we and our children need to live in, is not a lot like this one.
Kev Hilton
02.04.08 at 03:11

Wow, how come everyone pretty much saw through this bunch of liberal BS??? You know, the we must be bad because if you are successful rant when we listen to national news with blindsiders on and they tell us what we think.
I believe you think more when you read than if something is spoon feed through the 'boobtube' which is how we are trained to think as a culture. That would be anyone not just the USA, where believe it or not people are being mugged right now...and not always for an ipod for some people are what I like to call 'really bad'...
John
02.05.08 at 02:25

me designer. me so smart. me so cool. me prevent muggings.
lf
02.06.08 at 01:06

Posted without comment:
Did iPods cause a crime wave?. (Link to the original paper at bottom.
Su
03.06.08 at 02:45

Is this really so? Is Apple being blamed for having designed one of the most efficient MP3 players? From functionality to esthetically, the iPod is the only one in today’s market that is user friendly on all platforms, Mac and Windows. And now Apple is getting criticized for this ingenious concept? This is all because of the number of reports that have been filed on iPod theft? Ms. Weese feels that we should all come together, with our design skills to develop an “equally” innovative solution. What about all of the purse and wallet thefts? Shouldn’t those designers be conscious about putting the Chanel, Gucci, and Prada logos on their handbags and wallets? Whether it’s an iPod or a designer handbag, it all boils down to one thing; these items are hot on the market. There are some of us who want and can afford to pay the prices to have the latest, most popular item in retail. Whichever it is either an electronic gadget or a fashion statement. And because these items are popular, the thieves know that they can make some extra cash. There are some who can’t afford to pay the prices and choose to either steal or buy it off the street. We will continue to see things like this happen. Looking back, I’ve experienced the era of the Cabbage Patch dolls, Air Jordan’s, and Tickle-Me Elmo. This past Christmas, the Wii was the ‘hottest’ item. Will Ms. Weese criticize Nintendo for the design of the Wii? The overall design of the Wii, makes it appealing to the eye. I would have to believe that if Wii were ever manufactured to become portable, just like the PSP, there would be a theft problem with that product.
Cassandra
03.18.08 at 12:53

I also agree that Apple should not be blamed for the theft of iPods. In my opinion I think it is absolutely ludicrous to even make mention of such a notion. The energy spent on making such claims should be redirected at the consumer, as Cesar mentioned, for them to take blame for their irresponsibility. If I were Steve Jobs, I would almost be flattered at such claims made by Cheryl Weese. Consumerism has been around for a long time and with that, so has envy. People want what they can’t have, and if that unattainable object “looks good”—it’s that much better. Why steal a $30 music player when you can steal a $300 music player, with video? Apple puts more money into their research, development, and design; therefore, the consumer sees that cost in the price of the iPod.
Mehran
03.18.08 at 06:21

When i talk about my philosophy in design, I always return to this article. If you have read my comment from previous years, it is clear I was upset about this article and disagree with it wholeheartedly.

I don't know how long it has been, but I changed my mind completely now. Apple should be blamed. Not just a little bit, more than 50%.

Having studied in the US, my opinion on the matter was the same as most other people, who I suspect are from the US as well. But when I begin studying in Graduate school with people from the UK and other places in Europe, where Eco-design and sustainability has become important part of any type of design, I understand it a lot more.

Design has been used to create dangerous wants. This economy we are having right now is a product of those wants.

Social responsiblity is very important to designer. We create the "want" in this world, not the need. Food don't need to be designed (although arguably it can) for a hungry person to eat it. But do we really need that new cell phone, that new car, that new house, new anything that we already have? So if we want it, chances are, design has something to do with it.

Apple create this colorful toy-like products clearly loved by kids who are not yet responsbile enough for it, with a price tag most adults can't afford. Apple didn't pull the trigger. But they do contribute to the social problem.

The solution is not to "design worse", but something has to be changed. Hey, I own an iPod too. But as much as you want to argue in apple favor, this expensive low involvement product is creating a want that is dangerous to society. You can debate about what the solution should be, but there is no debate about whether or not there is a problem.
Panasit
11.19.10 at 08:50



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Cheryl Towler Weese is a partner and creative director at Studio Blue, a Chicago-based design firm serving cultural and educational institutions.
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