Pomona Mac design story

The Library of Congress is great.  They did some research and provided me with some more background on the Pomona Mac.  The text below comes from the book, Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney.  Here is a link to the specific text below.


Project Pomona

Jony’s next big project was the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, which would be
the first major project to get started within the design group rather than one of
Apple’s engineering groups. “At its best, engineering and design would work hand
in hand,” Brunner explained. “Other times they would come to us and say, This is
the product, just make it look pretty. It was already defined, you just need to put
your styling on it. That was Apple at its worst.”

Brunner wanted Project Pomona to signal a shift in development.

“This was one when it wasn’t engineering driven at all. It was design driven. It
was all about a certain type of experience that we saw and thought was important.”

Launched in 1992, Project Pomona would be one of Brunner’s parallel design
investigations. Just like the Juggernaut project, Pomona involved the whole ng,
along with a few freelance designers. The ambition was large: Project Pomona
aimed to imagine the first computer designed for the home. rather than the
workplace. The end result would be a triumph-and a disaster.

By the early nineties, more and more computers were being used in people’s
homes, but they were mostly beige boxes that had been designed for office cubicles.
Brunner wanted to change that. “For years I wondered how the computer would
evolve from a box into something more physically compelling that would fit better
in the home,” said Brunner. His hope was that his team would come up with
“concepts that would encourage people to select their computer the same way they
would a piece of furniture or a home stereo.”

Brunner also wanted to move away from the heavy, oversized CRT monitors
standard on desktop computers. Instead, he wanted to fuse a desktop CPU with a
flat-panel display. “We thought that flat panels would become mainstream; they
were already mainstream on laptops.”

Brunner’s October 1992 briefing document laid out his ideas and criteria for a
high-design desktop Mac. It was, in effect, a challenge to the group’s designers and
five outside consultants to come up with the best concepts.

Brunner kept it loose: His basic call was for a high-design desktop Mac,
powerful but with a minimum footprint. Brunner insisted that all concepts use new
materials in new ways, including polished or brushed metal, wood, veneer and
different types of coatings and finishes. Not only were there a minimum of other
restrictions; the designers were actually invited to step outside of Apple’s
established design language.

Brunner did add another interesting wrinkle to the project: He wanted a machine
that couldn’t be ex anded with extra hardware cards and beefier internal
components. Mostly home users never bothered to expand their machines, so he
encouraged designers to forget expansion slots, freeing them to explore much
thinner designs.

The initial concepts were wildly varied. One was inspired by the design of a classic
Tizio lamp, with the guts housed in the base and the screen mounted on an arm that
hovered in space. Another concept hid the main display and components inside a
metallic exoskeleton.

One of the most intriguing concepts came from Jony and Daniele De Iuliis, who

teamed up to pitch a mid-range computer. Their design had a homey look and their
goal was to create a machine affordable for those wig: a modest bugget. They called
it the “Domesticated Mac.”

To keep the price down, they based it on a CRT monitor, not a pricier flat
screen. It was basically a Classic Mac in a funky-looking case. It was an odd duck,
resembling an old-fashioned wardrobe, with three feet and twin doors that covered
the display. There were slots inside the doors for things like extra floppy disks.
Jony and De luliis also put an analog clock in one of the doors. Cleverly installed,
the (2de would flip around so that it told the time when the door was open or
c 05

Brunner created his own Pomona project design. His concept closely aligned
with his prescription for a futuristic computer with a slim profile and powerful
components. Brunner designed a wide. curved enclosure containing a flat-panel
disp ay flanked by a pair of big stereo speakers. It was a computer-cum-stereo,
perfect for the kind of multimedia experience promised by CD-ROMs, then new to
the market. To keep it slim, he proposed to use the uts from a PowerBook
notebook. It would be made from-of all things-bfiack mahogany, like a concert

Since the other designers thought his concept looked more like a product from
the high-end audio maker Bang 8: Olufsen than a PC, Brunner’s solution became
the “B&O Mac.” The mating of a PC and stereo system was a novel idea at the
time, and it generated a lot of excitement in the design studio. In fact, Brunner’s
concept would trounce all other Pomona designs in focus groups in the summer of
1993 and, by the end of the project, was declared the winner of the Pomona

Nearly a year had passed since Brunner released his brief, but the group had a
good idea of the basic shape and scope of the project. So far so good.

To turn it into a real product, Brunner handed the project over to Jony in the
summer of 1993. Jony had just finished his work on the MessagePad 110
and, when handed the B&O Mac by Brunner, he knew he was facing a tough
challenge. Going back to basics, he started with the design story.

“On a technical level, we understood the challenge associated with packaging a
lot of components into a very slim space,” Jony clarified later. “But philosophically,
the project was more challenging. Like the first Macintosh, the design had no
predecessors, which meant I had to come up with a new meaning for the product. I
wanted the design to be sim le almost to the point of being invisible?”

Ultimately, Jony would keep the spirit of Brunner’s concept but change almost
everything else. He redesigned the proportions of the computer. Where Brunner’s
initial design was wide and curved and appeared to take over a desk, Jony made it
taller and much narrower. He changed the size of the foot of the base (which was
called the bale) and created a hinge that allowed the foot to double as a can’ying
handle. Handles would feature prominently in Jony’s designs. He redesigned the
back panel, giving more room to the CPU and motherboard.

In April 1994, after working on it all winter, Jony handed over his design to a
pair of product design engineers to make a working prototype. As the prototype
took shape, a marketing manager worked up an internal product brief. The machine
gained the official code name “Spartacus.” After eighteen months, everything was
on track to turn it into a real product.