The Apple Product That Took Inspiration From Star Wars (And Vice Versa)

Movies


The Big Picture

  • Apple’s AirPod design drew inspiration from the stormtrooper armor in Star Wars.
  • J.J. Abrams and costume designer Michael Kaplan were influenced by Apple’s design aesthetic when revamping the stormtrooper armor for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Jony Ive, Apple’s former Senior Vice President and Chief of Design, provided creative input for Kylo Ren’s lightsaber design in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


As one of history’s most beloved pieces of intellectual property, Star Wars has leveraged an enormous influence on pop culture. Through its deeply rooted anthropological themes, memorable characters, and groundbreaking visual effects, George Lucas‘ brainchild dramatically shifted the cinematic landscape and forever altered the industry’s approach to marketing and merchandising. In the near half-century since global audiences first caught sight of a galaxy far, far away, the franchise’s unparalleled effect has extended beyond pop culture and into the realm of real-world design and application. Less than a decade ago, one of Star Wars‘ signature character designs inspired the look of a product created by one of the world’s biggest and best-known tech corporations.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire’s world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.

Release Date
May 25, 1977

Director
George Lucas

Rating
PG

Runtime
121 minutes


Apple’s AirPod Design Was Influenced by ‘Star Wars’ Stormtrooper Armor

Upon its world-shaking debut in May 1977, Star Wars firmly cemented iconic imagery and archetypes into public consciousness, not least of which included the film’s villainous stormtroopers. A hivemind of faceless and nameless drones donning smooth, glossy black and white armor, the Empire’s sinister goons attained a status as legendary as anything else in George Lucas’ space opera. Decades later, Apple’s renowned former Senior Vice-President and Chief Design Officer, Jonathan “Jony” Ive, drew inspiration from the characters’ armor in developing one of the company’s latest cutting-edge products.

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Having joined the tech giant as a young man, Ive designed some of Apple’s best-known products, including the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. According to the Wall Street Journal, the look of the company’s AirPods was lifted from the Star Wars playbook. While one likely wouldn’t make that connection without said knowledge, in hindsight, the iconic armor’s influence on the earbuds’ appearance is plain as day. It wouldn’t just be life imitating art with regard to Apple’s AirPods, however, as J.J. Abrams and costume designer Michael Kaplan ultimately reversed that creative process when revamping a key design element for Star Wars‘ big screen revival in 2015.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Took Inspiration From Apple

The year before Apple’s AirPods hit the shelves, Star Wars fans around the world rejoiced as the franchise returned to theaters with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and with the massive blockbuster came a horde of aesthetic developments and updates. Among the latter was a reworked design for the stormtroopers’ armor, which according to Michael Kaplan, was “more heavy-duty.” Due to the film’s action sequences involving the First Order’s foot soldiers, the new costumes also needed to be more agile and flexible compared to the original trilogy’s bulky and easily breakable material.

To achieve their desired result for the updated costuming, Kaplan and J. J. Abrams turned to Apple for inspiration. Kaplan told Vanity Fair, “With the stormtroopers it was more of a simplification, almost like, ‘What would Apple do?'” Per The Wall Street Journal, Abrams and Jony Ive had known each other for years by the time the filmmaker got around to taking on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As it turns out, the influence of Apple products on Star Wars‘ design sensibilities wouldn’t be limited to the stormtroopers’ newly tweaked armor. For Ive’s part, he personally provided Abrams with creative input for another element of the franchise’s iconography.

Jony Ive Made Suggestions to J.J. Abrams About Kylo Ren’s Lightsaber

Kylo Ren holding out his lightsaber in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Image via Lucasfilm

Among the developments in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the design of the new baddie’s lightsaber. With less of a smooth, contained glow and more of a frenetic, unrefined buzz, Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) lightsaber, with its cross guard alluding to the kind of weapon a medieval knight might wield, appeared and functioned differently compared to previous iterations in the franchise. According to Ive, Ren’s decidedly more threatening lightsaber design resulted from conversations with J.J. Abrams. “I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty,” Ive told The New Yorker.

Considering Star Wars‘ singular effect on entertainment and pop culture in general, it’s no surprise the legendary IP has managed to infiltrate and influence other aspects of consumerism in ways both subtle and obvious. Life and art often imitate one another in unexpected ways, and given the brief but historical connection between Lucasfilm and Apple’s Steve Jobs via Pixar in the 1980s, perhaps it was inevitable that there would be crossover between Lucas’ long-lasting franchise and what would become one of the world’s most formidable tech empires.

All Star Wars films and series are available to stream on Disney+ in the U.S.

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