The iPod mini: Visceral, Behavioral, Reflective

by Nathan Kendrick Mar 14, 2004

imageI finally have an iPod. No, strike that, I have an iPod mini. The difference is crucial to me. It also seems crucial to 100,000 others that pre-ordered the iPod mini. But why?

From a price perspective, I have argued for the controversial iPod mini, even before owning one. The original iPod seemed like an outrageous amount for an mp3 player. But then again it offered outrageous capacity, and a fantastic user interface (UI). The original then went on to be a smash hit, market dominator, and three generations later it’s still on top. What then is so great about the iPod mini? Why does the world even need an iPod mini?

Serendipitously, Don Norman was just interviewed by the Guardian on his new book “Emotional Design”. This book outlines three levels of design: visceral, behavioral, and reflective. And you know what…the iPod mini fulfills all three levels of design almost as if Norman was using an iPod mini as he wrote his book.

Visceral: “Visceral design is about how things look, feel and sound.”

Original iPod (G3): The visceral level is all but removed in the current generation. I, and others, still love the design. Its cool, white, solid, almost just a vessel for your music. There are no moving parts for the navigation…all touch based. You almost need to “trust” in the device that your slight touches will really do something in the UI.

iPod mini: The physical clicking is back! It is a joy to feel button feedback. Color! Those anodized colors, which are agonizing to figure out which one you should have. Aluminum! The matte feel of aluminum is superior in every way to clammy, greasy chrome and gloss plastic.

Behavioral: “Appearance really doesn’t matter: performance does.”
Original iPod (G3): As above, the physical feedback loop of buttons is necessary. No matter how cool touch buttons are, users need touch feedback as it is key to innately understand and validate the UI.

iPod mini: Physically, not having to move your thumb from the wheel to utilize the other buttons is the most efficient and optimal design. The mini clicks!

Reflective: “It’s about message: what does using this product say about you?”

Original iPod (G3): The iPod did wonders for Apple. It, like the iMac, is now a ubiquitous symbol of the digital society. Because of its ubiquity, it loses personality it gave its owners. White headphone wires are everywhere. Who knows if they have the 40GB or the 15GB in that pocket. Geeks use it, MBA-types use it, designers use it, and hipsters use it the list goes on and on.

iPod mini: Along come colors (an iterative cycle it seems for Apple), smaller physical size, and armbands. Why just show off the white headphones? Now you can wear the whole iPod on your arm, exposing your love of music, color preference, and portability over capacity. Now you can differentiate yourself from the other iPod *gasp* drones.

I could never justify $300 for a 15GB iPod. For the reasons above, I can easily justify the $250 for the iPod mini. Forget about a market driven product to hit the “high-end flash player” buyers. Using Don Norman’s criteria it is clear that the iPod mini is a product driven by emotion. Apple knew this, and now I know it.


  • I always feel that because the iPod looks so low-tech it draws interest.

    A lot of computer averse people want to touch and try my iPod and they can move around it pretty fast if you show them how it operates.

    Like the original iMac it just asks to be touched, the dimension of tactile attractiveness should not be underestimated.

    Martijn had this to say on Mar 16, 2004 Posts: 10
  • ) I understand what you are saying, but I find it a lot easier to justify an iPod purchase over the mini purchase. Why purchase a few gigs for $250 when you can get many times more for $299? (My thinking was worse… why buy 15 g for $299 when I can get 40 for $499?)

    2) The first time my daughter held my 40 gig 3g she murmured “It feels so _soft_.” Nuff said.

    leertracy had this to say on Mar 19, 2004 Posts: 1
  • I purchased my first iPod just 3 months ago…...40gb of course….....all the music I’ll ever want to carry, I said.  Well, I’m up to a puny 4.5gb with all that space left to do what…......nothing.  Oh sure, I’ll add to it, little by little, buying cd’s and shopping iTunes (addictive).  But serously, an iPod mini has more than enough to satisfy.  Its sexy, very sleek and makes a statement.

    I cant justify buying a mini now, after spending all that mad money on the big boy.  But, my 5th anniversary is coming up and guess what my wife will be getting.  Just because I can’t buy one for myself doesn’t mean I don’t want one around.  Good thing I ordered early, with a romantic thought lasered to the back to prove my love…......but love for what?

    JeffyC had this to say on May 04, 2004 Posts: 18
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