Apple Pickup spaces provide a glimpse into Apple's design process

Apple Pickup spaces provide a glimpse into Apple’s design process

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Apple Pickup spaces have been the most notable addition to Apple Stores for some considerable time. They offer a streamlined way to collect online orders from a retail store.

Former 9to5Mac writer Michael Steeber says that they offer something else: a rare glimpse at Apple’s design evolution process, played out in public …


Apple has offered an in-store pickup option for online orders as long as its stores have existed. Whether it’s because you’re not at home to take a delivery during the day, or just want to be able to get your hands on your shiny new product as quickly as possible, you can order it online, select Store Pickup, choose your store, and then pick it up as soon as a couple of hours later.

The company has offered various iterations of this idea, but the biggest change came early in the pandemic, when stores were forced to close.

Apple initially piloted an Express Pickup concept to allow customers to continue collecting orders even when stores were closed. This proved successful and popular, and it subsequently evolved into Apple Pickup spaces, available once stores reopened.

The evolution of Apple Pickup

Writing in Tabletops, which Steeber describes as ‘little stories about Apple’s biggest product,’ he notes that unlike most elements of the iPhone maker’s retail stores, each Apple Pickup space is different.

The future of Apple Retail is being designed right in front of you.

Over the past two years, more than half a dozen new Apple Stores have opened with spaces dedicated to Apple Pickup. This is one of the most notable changes to the core Apple Store experience since the debut of the New Store Design in 2015.

A close study of the latest stores reveals surprising variation. Every single Apple Pickup area to date has a slightly different layout or unique fixtures, and most occupy different areas of the store. You are witness to an evolving design language.

It’s incredibly rare to see Apple work through design challenges in public, and it’s also incredibly fascinating. The earliest Apple Stores and the New Store Design emerged from mock spaces in Cupertino essentially complete. Iteration happened behind closed doors, and many of the store features you know today have remained visually consistent for years.

He provides numerous photos, showing the very different designs Apple has tried.

While Apple normally keeps its design iterations under close wraps, with customers only seeing the final design (at least for a first-gen product), Steeber argues that this more public process has allowed the company to gain insights they might otherwise have lacked.

There’s another risk to betting on a customer-facing solution designed in secret: misaligned expectations. By tweaking Pickup store by store, Apple can evaluate feedback from customers and employees to build an experience that meets everyone’s needs.

It’s still the early days. Store plans have been retrofit and a Boardroom was removed to accommodate Pickup fixtures. Only two stores open today were totally designed with Pickup in mind from the start. As Apple’s ideas for these new spaces converge, look to Apple The Mall at Bay Plaza and Apple Wuhan to see the future.

The photo at the top shows one of the latest iterations, as the Wuhan store in China.

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