In Apple’s latest announcement of its updates to products for 2020, the artist Geoff McFetridge made a surprise appearance as a watch face designer. Within a list of updates in series six of the Apple Watch there are several new designs to pick and choose, the most visually arresting of which is by Geoff, who has created a literal watch face.
In the artist’s signature style, users can switch their Apple Watch face to feature a character illustrated by Geoff, in which the time is presented as eyes, blinking with every minute that passes. “To be able to communicate so intimately, over a long period of time with people, felt like such an opportunity,” says Geoff, as we caught up with the LA-based artist a few days after Apple’s announcement. Keen to create a piece “that did not occupy the minds of the users, but instead felt like a visual mantra,” Geoff’s approach was to create a watch that offered “a proposition for reflection”, he tells It’s Nice That.
Having worked with Apple on a few projects previously, Geoff explains that he followed his usual process of “creating many, many ideas and presenting them as drawings,” one of which was to create a series of faces. “All of my thinking around the watch face was created knowing how intimate the user experience would be,” he explains of the project in its beginning phases. “I was interested in how approaches that were equal parts visual and mechanical could create a unique experience for the user.”
In turn, the artist’s watch design mirrors elements of traditional watch making, where “the mechanics are either visible or hidden, but you know what you see is determined by a mechanism,” Geoff explains. “My design, in use, is meant to connect the user to a very simple mechanism in a similar way – it does not tick, but it ticks visually.” Likening its visual symbol of passing time to “one of those clicking desk ball things” Geoff’s design is one that he describes as both “practical but self serving,” justifying also that he’s “always been drawn to mobius-like things.”
In terms of how this was then translated to a functioning watch face user’s could implement, Geoff explains how it’s actually “quite easy to make,” he tells us. “There is basically a kit of parts, that was randomised and programmed too animate.” Each element of the watch face is equally important and thought through: every version has a dark outline, and the face itself “is very much about the colour palette”. He adds: “There is balance in everything; the faces, or hair styles, the colours, the animation, the numbers, mouths… no one thing is meant to stand out.”
The most artistically-leaning face design featured in the Apple Watch series update, Geoff points out how although the brand “is known for clean functional design… everything about Apple is not glass and chrome.” Wanting to tap into the fact that Apple “has always had playful and goofball side,” Geoff’s design is an apt example of this quality. “I am really proud to be a part of that legacy.”
Geoff McFetridge: Apple Watch
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.