The New iMac
The new 24" iMacs are a radical, colorful splash from Apple, and it got our design team excited to geek out on the details—the good, the bad, the "chin"—and talk about how it might impact future Grovemade product design.

I caught up with Ken Tomita, our CEO and co-founder, and Sean Kelly, our lead designer, and we jammed on everything from product strategy to favorite colors.

- Nick LaPlante, Marketing & Product Strategy
Nick: Alright—talking about the new iMacs—what was your first thought when you saw them?

Sean: My first thought was just being blown away by the color. I was dazzled. It was wild, and what I loved about it was that it reminds me of one of my first experiences with an iMac back in my high school library—you could see through them, see the bits, but they were colorful and vibrant and playful, and that's something.

Ken: Makes me wonder if part of their strategy is like cultural relevance, the world we've gone through and struggled with the last year. I wonder if part of it is like, "Hey, let's come up with something that's uplifting and bright and cheery."

Nick: Totally. It felt like a throwback. There's some comfort in the retro.

Ken: I couldn't believe the thinness. The photo they have from the side is just ridiculous. Like, oh my God. It's really stunning from a technological standpoint. It's quite a striking silhouette, showing off what's possible.
Sean: I would argue that I even liked the stand on this one better than the really expensive Apple Pro Display XDR. I mean, the really expensive one you can articulate it so many different ways, and it has these really amazing, beautiful connectors and details. But this one is just so simplified, and that subtle angle leaning forward a little bit. It's so much more iMac.

Ken: It's kind of cantilevering, and you get this kind of tension, like it's hanging in space.

Sean: Yeah, it feels impossible. It has this really nice perch to it.

Ken: They were able to make it super thin—obviously they emphasize that. But I think, and most people think, that forced them to have this chin, right, 'cause to cram all the components of the computer into something that thin, they had to have this chin—it reminds me of these design decisions that we make, these trade-offs.

Sean: I am a huge fan of the chin. I love chins.

Ken: [laughs] Jay Leno? Jay Leno?

Sean: The subtlety of this new iMac is really nice. Like, the front facing view is very reserved and kind of subdued in terms of the colors, and then the back is more bold. I absolutely loved the construction method there with the speakers in that chin area. I just think it's a nice detail. And you can put your sticky notes there.

Ken: The two-tone throws me off a little bit—that the chin is this extra part that's a different color than the body on the side. I don't know. It's a little busy to me. I'm trying to imagine this thing where it's mono color—more saturated. It would be totally different. And I guess it's not as playful. It's not as fun.

Yeah, this is the kind of thing that we would have mocked up renderings for, and debated back and forth.

Sean: But I do like the white bezel. I'm into that. And the steel rimmed camera right at the top is kind of fun. I think of the old iMacs, 'cause you're really emphasizing the technology.
Ken: So that's a big departure [from the newer iPads & iPhones] where the screen is black when it's turned off. So it looks much cleaner with a black bezel—but the black doesn't work with these pastel colors. It's pretty controversial, the white bezel. Once you commit to going colorful, you got to go light bezel.

Nick: And there's the new color-coordinated keyboard. What do you guys think about that in terms of integrating those colors into our lineup?

Ken: We're definitely going to make a keyboard tray for this keyboard. The change in the radius [of the corners] is a pretty big difference. It looks much less like a professional tool, with a big rounded radius and the rounded corners on the four corner keys. We haven't really fully explored it yet—we'll probably explore a couple of directions on our keyboard tray itself.
Sean: What's interesting about how it affects us—we've been following that scheme where we have the light and the dark, but now there's a huge splash of color, so, what do we do with that splash of color? Do we follow suit or do we stick to our regular light and dark product offerings?
Ken: There are new questions to be asked now. It's going to be a really interesting year for [Grovemade] Research & Development. We have to ask ourselves those questions and I don't know yet where we're going to go.

Sean: I'm very interested about the user of this iMac as well. When we think about it in terms of people that use Grovemade products: how do they relate? And what I'm seeing with this launch is—we're all spending more time in our homes. I don't think this product is necessarily for people that would have a laptop. It's an in-home computer. It's more of a family computer and less of a workhorse computer. And by adding a splash of color, it subdues the tech side of it.

Ken: So there's a full softening of the product. Speaking of texture: the cord. So what do you think of that cord? One thing they did is it now connects to this giant, external power brick. And that allows them to go thinner on the device itself. And you can plug it in, it has ethernet ports for the power brick.

So now you only have one cable coming up to your device. It's hardcore. Cords are like the bane of our existence.

Nick: Okay, which color?

Sean: I think I would want to get the yellow one. Yeah, I really like that. Warm n' mustardy. I just like mustard, you guys. But my daughter would pick the blue one cause she loves blue. So we'd probably get the blue one.
Ken: I'd go with orange for my 1971 house with my green carpet. Oh yeah! I've got my wife's parent's Ikea chairs with orange fabric. It looks so good in there, with the paneling and the green carpet.

Nick: Yeah, I think I might do the green, actually. I like the two-tone interaction in green.

Sean: But it has to be in a position in your house where you can see the back. Like it has to be out in the middle of some space where you can see around the entire computer.

Nick: We've talked about that a lot with our customers; getting photos from customers. Isn't it pretty infrequent that their desks are in the middle of the room?

Sean: It's quite unusual, but that's cool that they made it look beautiful from all sides. They're also pairing the computers with really high-design interiors. Like the George Nelson lamp in the background of that bedroom. I think the product photography is really great.

Ken: But I don't like sawhorse desks, though. I have a thing where I go off about sawhorse desks. [laughs]

Sean: It's the standing desk that doesn't feel like a standing desk!

Ken: The sawhorse design takes up so much room. It's not necessary to have eight legs. No one starts designing furniture and says "Let's put eight legs on this thing so it blocks your legs!" [laughs]

Sean: That's why he's sitting criss-cross applesauce in his chair.
Final Thoughts
Ken: I think it's an exciting development. Apple's a leader in technology in the world, and sure, they're getting a lot of flack, but I love that they're taking a new position. I do think that cultural relevance thing we talked about earlier... like we need uplifting feelings. Maybe in some small ways, you know, this shift to be a little bit more playful and uplifting with technology in the home is going to be good.

Sean: I totally agree. With the colors, and just thinking back to the nostalgia of where Apple was before they went to the light and dark for a long time. I think that it just fills me with this playful kind of spirit when I look at it, and it reminds me of being a kid, and the shared computer in the family home. I'm excited about it. I want one. I don't need one, but I want one.

Nick: Awesome. Thanks y'all. Excited to see how this gets incorporated into our product strategy!

It reminds me of one of my first experiences with an iMac back in high school. They were colorful and vibrant and playful.

Lead Product Designer

Further Reading