8 Years of Great Mac OS X Box Design ends with a stock photo

By Jesus Diaz


Diaz rants in his cool article about the latest member to the Mac OS X box design family. He puts in in perspective and raises an interesting point about design consistency; do we need to see an image of a clouded snow leopard at all? Apple has always understood the power of semiotics – its all about perception. Maybe they were worried about consumers getting snow leopard mixed up with leopard? (Well… I did!) Then again, perhaps the packaging designers just ran out of suitable ‘X’ fonts!

Read on:


Mac OS X cheetah-puma

This is the box for the first Mac OS X (10.0 and 10.1). Its design is simple, but tells a story about its user interface. Mac OS X introduced the world to Aqua, all glass, shininess, and transparency. It was the flashiest, most apparent feature of the new operating system—which was a complete departure from the old and decrepit Mac OS 9. The box big X showed exactly that.

The first two versions were Cheetah and Puma, but Apple omitted any official mention to the big cats in its box packaging, preferring to emphasize the new Mac OS X operating system.


Mac OS X Jaguar

This was the first retail box that acknowledged the animal code names of Mac OS X. Jaguar fully embraced the codename game, so much that Apple commissioned Pixar to render the X as actual jaguar fur in glorious 3D, using one of their famous Renderman procedural shaders (no photos or textures, just math here). You can count the hairs, and it looks so naff, it is cool.

Mac OS XPanther

Mac OS X Panther

Panther moved into the new design of the company’s products, which came with the latest iPods and computers. The X was embossed and chromed. It looked nice and sleek.

OS X Tiger

Mac OS X Tiger

Tiger followed with smaller packaging, but the design was cutting-edge bold, simple, and with great production. It was also the last big box, before they reduced all their software packaging drastically, to the CD jewel box size. Graphicswise, there was no faux-Tiger fur, just a big solid X. Yeah, X marks the spot.

Mac OS X Leopard

Mac OS X Leopard

Leopard was the most aggressive of them all, using a cool “Masters of the Universe” design tied to one of the main features of the new OS version: Time Machine. It has it all: Good design, sleek black, and holographic eye candy. The highest point before the Snow Leopard smlehness.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard

Mac OS X Snow Leopard



Stock photo (Edited)? Come on, Apple. What’s wrong with you?

What happened to 8 years of great packaging design? Are ideas running so low in Cupertino that they have grabbed a cat from a clip art package?

I understand cost-cutting measures. Production-wise, the first Leopard box is probably the most expensive of them all. But after the good design logic that went into every single box before Snow Leopard, I can’t understand how they have settled with this bland design. Especially in this release: The new OS is packed with strong features under the hood, but no wowiezowie eye candy or any must-have-or-die new tool… so why don’t mark the engine improvements with an awesome box? Or, if not awesome, at least a solid design that tells a good story.

Because right now, the only story I get is “hi, I’m a bloody white cat with spots who has been hunting wabbits on the snow all day. I’m wet.” Veehee lame indeed.


About ranman

Design educator with a Masters of Design degree. 32 years of design experience. View all posts by ranman

3 responses to “8 Years of Great Mac OS X Box Design ends with a stock photo

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