Apple VP of industrial design details MacBook Air overhaul

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Apple's design chief has detailed how the company went about redesigning the M2-equipped MacBook Air, as well as other tidbits about the device.

Evans Hankey, the company's vice president of industrial design, recently spoke with GQ Magazine UK about topics ranging from the MacBook Air's careful design, what inspired one of its new colors, and how the svelte laptop has always been "provocative."

"It has always been a product where it's a bit provocative," Hankey said. "The first MacBook Air started in the studio when we put display housings together from what I guess would have been the PowerBook at the time."

A decade and a half about late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pulled the first MacBook Air out of a manilla envelope, Hankey explained how the Cupertino company went about redesigning the MacBook Air. For one, it was no small feat, since the model is the company's best-selling Mac portable

"I think the Air requires a lot of courage, because it's like, 'What are you going to keep?'" Hankey said.

That courage translated to a meticulous overhaul of the MacBook Air that involved a lot of collaboration between Hankey and her colleagues on Apple's design team.

For example, the MacBook Air's components are packed together so tightly within its tiny frame — a task that involved creating a spreadsheet for every single part's intended size. The team routinely measured its center of gravity so that it didn't stray too far left or right.

Despite the attention to detail that went into the device, Hankey said that the outcome was always intended to be simple.

"We don't really have to play any kind of games with shape or form to make it look thin," she said. "And I think that's one of the most lovely and remarkable things: it's quite honest and simple."

Beyond the technicality of the redesign, Hankey also highlighted how the MacBook Air kept its personality. While the wedge-shape frame is gone, the model now sports a variety of colors — including the Basalt hue that's "much-loved" by Apple's design team.

"So that one came from the volcanic rock Basalt," Hankey said. "Do you know this rock? My dad was a geologist."

And while the MacBook Air looks quite different from the MacBook Pro, Hankey said that neither device was designed in a vacuum. She said that this "was the first time we ever set out to do a family of products together."

Since Apple design chief Jony Ive left the company, Hankey took charge — and has been responsible for the look and feel of Apple products since.

The full interview, which also features some of Hankey's colleagues, is available on GQ's website.