Apple stores have a very particular aesthetic. You can spot them from a mile away: The look is clean, if a little sterile, and shouts, "This is a temple to the high-tech gods." But thanks to the influence of retail chief (and former Burberry CEO) Angela Ahrendts, the Apple Store has a new look, which the company just showed off in its redesigned flagship in San Francisco. The changes, which are nothing short of major, will make Apple's stores feel less "tech," per se, by giving them more of a cool and relaxed lifestyle feel. They will be places where you actually want to go to hang out, rather than just spots to visit when you need to buy something or have a hardware problem fixed. Apple premiered the first store to feature this new look yesterday in San Francisco's Union Square location, but eventually all of its retail stores will get some degree of the makeover. "We have a deep commitment to the cities we work in, and are aware of the importance that architecture plays in the community,” Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, said in a press release.
Apple Union Square has 42-foot-tall sliding glass doors that open to reveal a town square-esque environment. The Genius Bar, formerly tucked at the back of Apple Stores, has transitioned to the "Genius Grove," a space full of ficus trees circled by leather seats, where you can sit next to an Apple Genius while getting help. Then there's "The Avenue," which has interactive, themed wall displays that are supposed to bring Apple’s products and services to life, from music, to creativity, apps, and photography. There will also be Apple experts serving as "Creative Pros" in this space. The new "Forum" area will host special community programs, such as game nights, student learning sessions, and other expert-led talks and activities, and centers around a 6K video wall. Slightly different is "The Boardroom," where companies and entrepreneurs can meet for training. While you can look forward to all those new design elements at Apple Stores around the world, "The Plaza," where well-known singers will perform on weekends — and where anyone can go to take advantage of free Wi-Fi — will be exclusive to "Apple's most significant stores." (We're guessing that Apple's flagship New York store — located right across the street from The Plaza Hotel — might get its own version of "The Plaza," though.) More than anything, Apple's store redesign is a larger representation of the ongoing shift in the tech world, that products are increasingly integrated in our everyday lives. When was the last time you left the house without your smartphone? Apple's new stores are just one more stage in tech's evolving role in our daily lifestyle. So, should we grab a juice and meet at the Genius Grove?