The lost Apple Store design of the 1990s

Originally published at:


I’m pretty sure Herman Miller sells this.


If there’s an indication of exactly when in the 90s this was I didn’t see it, but I’m going to guess it’s late-90s, with Jobs back at Apple. So 1997 at the earliest but probably closer to 1999.

It’s not a bad concept, and the state of Apple’s retail presence was disastrous at the time. Those two factors would have driven a lot of companies to implement the first half-decent concept that came along, ASAP.

Instead, Apple put at least another year (or two or three) of development work into it before opening its first stores. That’s some patience, and holy hell did it ever pay off. Most big Apple projects are widely predicted to be doomed, and the Store was no exception. And yet here we are 19 (!!) years and more than 500 stores later…

slithers back inside ex-Apple-fanboy cave


That music is … magical.


but Vaporwave is free and non-corporeal

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Bewitching, even.


Fortunately, Miss Othmar was able to use these ideas when designing her new Kindergarten classroom.


This definitely has an Apple-in-the-wilderness, pre-Jobs-return feel to it. I’m going to say it was closer to 1993.

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I pegged it later for two reasons:

  1. 1990-97 Apple was very grey aside from the logo, for the most part. I associate the video’s garish candy-colours with the iMac era.

  2. AFAIK the idea of Apple getting into retail was Jobs’s. Though of course Apple-in-the-wilderness (great way to describe that era!) kicked around all kinds of dead-end ideas, so it wouldn’t come as a shock if retail was one of them…

And on rewatching it, I found a pretty solid third:

  1. At 2:07 one of the few products shown appears to be a 20th Anniversary Macintosh (1997).

Another thing that stood out on rewatching: the Apple logo lacks rainbow stripes, which it had until 1998. However I think this is just the designer being forward-thinking, not proof that the video is post-98.


All good points, especially #3.I hadn’t caught the 20th Anniversary Mac on first viewing. Probably because my eyes were bleeding.


Ironically it looks like it was made on a Amiga with video toaster.


The rise of cheap PC clones put the nail in . Also, Apple had been sitting on it’s butt for the educational market, and actively took local Apple retailers out of the profit loop and sold directly to schools. (Previously Apple retailers would send a guy out to unbox and set up the computer labs and get a profit)
In addition they had been sitting on the Apple II line for 10 years without lots of update…and when they did it was to little too late (IE the IIgs). With those thing in place; Apple Local Shops folded up or started selling PC’s and repairs.

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At 1:03 that definitely looks like a “futurized” Pismo PowerBook G3.

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It was pretty blurry, but I was thinking Wallstreet (1998). Looks very similar to its successors, Lombard and Pismo – same curvy lines – only considerably thicker and heavier. But it was so blurry that it could also be the quite different looking Kanga (1997) and I wouldn’t be able to tell. The TAM was the only thing that looked really identifiable to me. YMMV.

my eyes… I heard it from the other room and thought my girlfriend was watching tv land. I thought I would be treated to some quaint midcentury sexism, but there was a searing pink flash, and burning, and… my eyes, it took my eyes!

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Wow, that’s some carpet!

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I seriously wonder if Amazon will ever come out with showrooms something like this, where they get to showcase newer technologies that are set to hit peak market penetration. If combined with the right mix of gaming, products, food/drink, and social components, it just might be able to fill a department store floor. I am still very unsure of this, but with the ambiguous future of department stores, it remains a possibility.

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For the time (mid-to-late 1990s) a pretty good concept, the modular design is especially nice, but it would have aged like milk. Imagen Applestores looking like this just 10 years later, like around 2010.


Muzakal even! Just missing an eight-bit Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

I always get a kick out of sci-fi clearly emulating a futuristic version of the present-day Apple stores. Design, like grief, has five essential stages: trendy, tired, nostalgic, old-fashioned and archeology.


I saw there were 19 comments and came to say I was bewitched by this concept, as no doubt the other 19 posters had all already said, too. Was somewhat disapp - surprised.

@gracchus, @coherent_light

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