Design

One of the minds behind the Apple Watch explains how it became an icon

Former Apple designer Imran Chaudhri, one of the brains behind the Apple Watch, shares some interesting facts about the gadget as it marks its fifth anniversary. And 30.7 million sales in 2019 alone.

Once upon a time

Chaudhri, pictured in the center, and some of the Apple team on launch day.

“We imagined everything you would expect — lists, square icons, evenly spaced grids — but they all made things more constrained and reinforced the idea of the small screen. The goal was to make the screen appear much vaster than it actually was — appear like it didn’t have boundaries.”

Imran Chaudhri

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“The clustered home screen design helped amplify that all the way through its behavior which reacted to the edges instead of clipping,” he explained. “I always wanted everything to appear as if it was suspended in blackness.”

Humble beginnings

"My first prototype was built on a sixth-gen nano strapped to this band," Chaudhri shared on Twitter. "I had just wrapped up iOS 5 and took it down to show the ID team what notification center and Siri was — and what it could be in the future."

Digital touch was once called "Electronic Touch" aka E.T.

"I called it that for its potential as a new form of emotional connection," Chaudhri wrote. "The drawing 'ink' was inspired by my grafitti days. The ephemera was designed to communicate transmission while making it guilt-free."

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Inspo from outer space

"I've always loved straps that were uncomplicated," Chaudhri tweeted, explaining the Apple Watch strap. "The mechanism for the loop watch band was an evolution of velcro speedmaster straps worn by Apollo astronauts."

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"The butterflies in the motion watch face were shot and animated by @zuckermanstudio," Chaudhri pointed out. "None were harmed, they had already passed. Andrew [Zuckerman] just gave them life."

Time and faith

"I created the solar watch face as a way for Muslims observing Ramadan to quickly see the position of the sun," Chaudhri says, "and for all to understand the sun's relationship to time."

As innovative as these elements are, Chaudhri never got the chance to share his insights with Steve Jobs. “Steve was amazing, though at times, he would need quite a bit of convincing for new products that came from the team,” Chaudhri told Input.

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“I think he would have been mindful of cost, usefulness, speed, making sure we don’t try too much at the beginning, make sure we are doing it for the right reason. We would have had a lot of those conversations and they’d be tricky,” he says. But at the end of the day, Chaudhri notes, “I was always grateful for his belief in our team.”

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