Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

The Back Page: Design by the book

In the most surprising Apple announcement since the total and utter lack of a new Mac Pro this year, Cupertino released with little-to-no fanfare a hardbound book chronicling its designs over the last two decades. While certainly a triumph of the impressive work done by Jony Ive and his team, the book raised some eyebrows because it was priced—like any Apple product—at a premium: $199 for a small version of the hardback, and $299 for a larger version (they really missed a chance to call it the Designed By Apple in California+). And, of course, you can only buy the book online from Apple or in person at Apple stores—and only certain, handpicked Apple stores at that.

Naturally, as Apple goes, so goes the technology market. Plenty of Cupertino’s competitors are no doubt about to roll out competing products of their own, and with the holiday shopping season about to start in earnest, you should keep your eye out for these other fine options for the technology fans in your family who maybe aren’t that crazy about Apple.

Designed by Microsoft in Washington Charting the course of the Redmond company’s history, it’s assembled in a scrapbook style, cobbled together from a bunch of different sources, from Bill Gates’s early code to Steve Ballmer’s drawings on cocktails napkins. Some pages appearing to be slightly rougher versions of similar-looking pages from Apple’s book. It’s only being sold as a paperback, and the cover makes it look like something you’re less likely to display on a coffee table, and more like something you’ll shove in with those economics textbooks from college that you keep even though you’ll never read again. On the upside, it’s cheap and available absolutely everywhere books are sold. Wait a little bit and they might even be trying to give them away.

Designed by BlackBerry in Waterloo This vintage-looking, leather-bound tome is written entirely on vellum. It’s also formatted in a small, difficult to read font, but everybody who owns a copy swears that they would never ever throw it out, even as it starts to dry rot and crumble into dust. Aficionados gather regularly in support groups to complain how the genius of the book was unrecognized, especially for its physical page-turning features.

Designed by Google on the Moon Colorful and egnaging, Google’s book is an entertainment experience, with fold-out leaves, scratch and sniff patches, and pop-up dioramas. Contains a book plate into which you can write your name, age, address, email address, phone number, social security number, blood type, height and weight, and the names of the last fifteen people you’ve corresponded with. There’s also a detailed schematic of Google’s Mars habitat, its teleportation technology, and its plans for eternal life. Basically complete fiction.

Designed by Motorola in a Vacuum Slightly dog-eared mass market paperback that’s mostly just a jumble of patent information and schematic drawings. Very expensive, but it’s never really bought or sold so much as just traded back and forth between a few people in the know; each time it moves to a new owner, a few handfuls of pages get ripped out.

Designed by Samsung in South Korea Just a packet of black-and-white photocopies of Apple’s book. Doused in lighter fluid.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]

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