Rounded Corners

I was sitting in a conference room yesterday where there were several different makes of laptops out on the table. Seeing a bunch of computers this way really hit home how beautiful Apple’s laptops really are. And its not just the clean silver case – several of the PCs had a similarly styled exterior. For me, its the rounded corners. Simple. Elegant. Clearly Apple cares about every aspect of their laptop design.

There are a few great vignettes in Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs that talk about Jobs obsession with rounded rectangles. From the original Macintosh application windows to Apple laptops to the iPod, iPhone and iPad designs. And while its harder to produce products with these rounded corners, the cost of not doing so is much greater.

I think we’re all starting to realize what Jobs realized a long time ago. Design matters.It matters a lot, in fact. Great design is not just a part of Apple’s success, I think it has a lot to do with the success of companies like Pinterest or Instagram as well. Its no longer acceptable (unless you’re Google, apparently) to have crappy looking product. More and more of the companies we work with are waking up to this and spending more time and focus making the look and feel of their applications as great as their functionality. Because in the application world, many people (and businesses) do judge a book by its cover.

  • jeffwms

    ironically, google ventures would agree with you:

    • we’ve worked with GV on design before at a few portfolio companies and they are fantastic. it’s funny, because in my view many of google’s consumer products lack that same design sense…

  • You probably have a wider view into this so I want to run this theory by you. The great majority of successful consumer facing tech entrepreneurs in the last decade have won through superior design. They mostly were not designers, they were engineers and business folks, but I believe they all had superior design sense. 

    I don’t mean aesthetic design, I mean interaction design and product design. Facebook’s genesis at harvard was an act of design, “I bet these people want to interact this way” and then “Oh actually it’s a bit more like this…” The fact he’s a engineer let him iterate quickly and work alone, but the idea itself was guided by design. Looking at Foundries portfolio it looks like Howard Lindzon of StockTwits has a business background but I would argue that do succeeded on design. The idea of people talking about stocks is merely an idea and clearly in the “business” realm but the actual implementation is design design design. 

    • We’ve really noticed that our best CEOs are product fanatics. This isn’t always reflected in the design I’m talking about, but definitely in the product overall. Howard is a good example of exactly that…

  • Ran Margalit

    I had to approve to the designers 1/4 of an inch in order to make the product look good. I was fighting with the EE for every 1/10 of an inch but when design people tell you “this way it will look good”, you do not argue. Look at those rounded corners and thin sides….

  • Pedant


    • uhh… yah. missed that one. thanks for catching it!

  • Larry McKeogh

    Two comments on this at  very different levels:
    1) “Presentation matters”. It was simple as that when the Sous Chef yelled at waiter taking a plate out with a gravy splotch on it. A customer paying for their meal doesn’t want it looking like they got it from a soup kitchen. The same sentiment can be extrapolated. Make your customers feel special in your presentation and your price can scale accordingly.

    2) The rounded corner thing actually works at a psychological level and is probably what you are perceiving with the various laptops sitting side by side. We’ve learned from a young age that pointy things hurt (square corners, needles, etc.) The more pointed the more painful. Rounding makes it safe. This works both in the physical world as you saw but also in the digital. Notice all the rounded corners on the boxes shown in dialogs etc.

    Good design is multifaceted.

    • Well put! And I hadn’t thought about the psychological underpinnings of my preference for rounded corners, but it completely makes sense.

  • success in design comes from an inspired interpretation of vision