Why the Departure of Daniel Coster From Apple Matters

Cult of Mac editor-in-chief Leander Kahney chronicles the career of Daniel Coster, a designer who was part of Apple’s industrial design team for 20 years before departing for action-cam maker GoPro last week.

 

"In 1996, Ive made Coster the lead designer of the colorful, curvy iMac, the smash hit computer that helped lead Apple’s comeback. The iMac’s distinctive “Bondi Blue” color was named after Australia’s Bondi Beach, where Coster liked to surf.

After the iMac, Coster worked on the iBook, the Titanium PowerBook and various models of the iPhone and iPad, including the early prototypes of both products. Some of the latest patents bearing Coster’s name are for things like Apple Watch bands."

 

Now, the Bondi Blue iMac is an icon. What’s a loss for Apple is a potentially game-changing gain for GoPro:

 

"At GoPro, Coster will be taking on an executive role, reporting directly to GoPro CEO Nick Woodman. He’ll be in charge of his own studio, with a team of designers at his disposal...

The camera maker is hardly noted for elegant design. In fact, its cameras — with all their attachments and accessories — are the opposite of Apple’s minimal approach."

 

In addition, with Coster being a sporty guy himself, it’s easy to see why he made the move.

 

"The company has struggled as competitors have flooded the action camera market with better, cheaper options, and as smartphones are increasingly the only camera consumers carry. GoPro’s stock has fallen from its high IPO price of $24 in June 2014 to about $12 a share recently."

 

I think Coster was also tempted by the challenge, and honestly, I think it’ll be exciting to see what he does. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end up like Nest, a now-failing firm headed by another influential former employee at Apple, Tony Fadell.

What interests me (and worries me) most about this is what this means for Apple, whose industrial design team has an influence on the company comparable to that of even its executive team. On top of that, the executive team has seen much more turnover than the industrial design team over the years.

 

"The design group has remained remarkably stable over the last 20 years. Calvin Seid died in 2014, and Doug Satzger left a few years ago to head up Intel’s industrial design group.

While almost nobody has left, there’s been little new blood either."

 

This is the issue I’m surprised few people have been talking about until now. With Apple being such a secretive company, there’s little that we know of how “tightly-knit” the team really is, and how stable they will remain in the next five years, and the five years after that. Jony Ive might not even be in the company anymore by then. Considering their incredible importance to the company and their culture, it would be surprising to learn if Apple wasn’t doing something about it already.

If Coster’s leave proves to be successful for GoPro, I can’t help but wonder if that will incentivise other members of the team to depart. It’ll certainly be interesting, but hopefully there’s something Apple knows that we don’t.

(Via Cult of Mac)