Apple's (Subtle) Way of Appealing to a Natural Preference
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
I recently upgraded my iMac to Apple's latest operating system, macOS Mojave. With it, came a variety of new desktop backgrounds—including many breathtaking landscapes, typical of Apple. This warranted a change to my usual background. I scrolled through the new selection, and one caught my eye, so I updated my desktop background accordingly. Below is the sandy terrain that peaked my interest:
A few days went by and I enjoyed the novel imagery. One day, when cleaning my desktop, I stopped and thought, "Why did I choose this one?". After all, out of the lengthy selection, I chose one right near the top without browsing them all. Could a subconscious drive or preference be at play?
Pondering, I looked at the image some more. I especially appreciated the lighter portion of the hill. Perhaps it was the way the sun hit it. This made sense to me, as humans have a natural preference for sunlight. Food growth is only possible with sunlight, and survival is only possible with food. Hence, the preference for sunlight.
The curves, though, caught my eye, too. Being a computer-rendered image by a trillion-dollar company that values design, I believed the shaping of the curves couldn't be arbitrary. Looking some more, I thought, "The curves just feel right...they bend and turn at just the right places." I turned my head and had an "A-ha!" moment. The following image depicts what I saw when I did so:
The silhouette of a woman's body became apparent. Not just any silhouette, though – an "hourglass figure" silhouette.
Examined in a scientific study, men prefer female body shapes with a certain waist-to-hip ratio, more commonly known as the "hourglass figure" (source). Being a straight male, this "A-ha!" moment brought to light the subtle way Apple has appealed to a natural preference of mine. The preference towards the "hourglass figure" is due to its role as a fertility cue; women who exhibit it tend to have a higher likelihood of bearing children.
I took to Pinterest to find potential reference images – ones that Apple may have used for inspiration. Comparing the abstract hill to a woman's "hourglass figure" will also further visualize the similarities between the two. Below is a comparison:
Comparing the Abstract to the Real
The direct comparison above should be adequate in highlighting the similarity. But, notice how the "legs" are defined by a slight line? Or, how the peak of the hill defines a "breast"? The contrast between light and dark also defines the woman's "cleavage"—after all, breasts are a fertility cue that appeals to men.
What About Appealing to Women?
While Apple's audience may have a significant makeup of men, women must be considered, too. My theory is that while the hourglass shape appeals to male sexual preferences, the hourglass figure appeals to female sexual aspirations. If the hourglass figure is so desired by men, it makes sense that women would be so inclined to achieved such a figure (genetics aside). So, whether a female is sexually-attracted to the figure or not, there may be an intrinsic drive for them to achieve such a figure in an attempt to secure a male mate.
Design decisions—of any aesthetic nature—should never be arbitrary. What looks good, sounds good, tastes good, etc. is often the result of careful audience consideration and natural human preferences as a whole. It's delightful, but not surprising, to see a design-driven company like Apple pay tribute to this. After all, small details add up to make a significant difference in the long-term. ▲