Apple's VP of Human Interface reveals how Apple made its handwashing app

Apple Watch Series 6 Aluminum Blue Case Close Up
Apple Watch Series 6 Aluminum Blue Case Close Up (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple's VP of Human Interface has shared how the company made its handwashing feature for Apple Watch.
  • Alan Dye was speaking on the Monocle on Design podcast.
  • He also discussed the Apple Watch's unique typeface and the design language of watch faces.

Apple's VP of Human Interface, Alan Dye, has appeared on the Monocle on Design podcast to discuss Apple Watch.

Speaking with Monocle's David Phelan, Dye appeared in a 16-minute segment of the show earlier this week.

Over the course of the interview, Phelan and Dye discuss Apple's early approach to designing a typeface for Apple Watch, faces, and Apple's new handwashing feature in watchOS 7.

On the show Dye stated:

We had a lot of fun with this one. And it's such a great example of where I think Apple does its best work. So we learned early on, the teams on the AI and ml side have been working really hard to better understand through a number of different inputs, whether that's the microphone, or the motion of your hands was through the accelerometer, whether we could discern whether someone is washing their hands, they figured that out. And we had some great success there. And our job then again, was to think about, okay, how do we create through haptics through what you feel on your wrist, through animations through what you see on the screen, maybe even through sound if you have the sound on your watch, how can we create an experience that I think is fun and enjoyable, but also encourages people to wash their hands for 20 seconds, which we know is such a big deal in terms of reducing the spread of germs and we made the typeface out of these kind of soapy bubbles, and even the countdown sort of bubbles away as you wash your hands. But it's built on that same kind of structure of a lot of the other graphical forms we use throughout the system. And I think it's some of the work that we're most proud of this time around. But also such a good example of how we can really be expressive with this original language that we designed five or six years ago.

The pair also discussed using stripes as part of Apple's watch face design, and the thinking behind collaborations with partners like Hermes or Nike.

The interview Dye is just 16 minutes long, and the podcast is handily broken down into chapters, so you can't miss it. Click here to listen!

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9

2 Comments
  • I'm not especially impressed. Tends to pick up my handwashing 5-10 seconds into the process, if at all. I don't feel any haptics, so have to look at the watch screen to see where I'm at, during which I'm not washing. Then when I'm done, and it started counting way late, it admonishes me for not washing long enough. Turned it off.
  • I initially thought it wasn’t kicking in on time when I first turned the feature on and had a similar experience. I’m not sure what changed but it works now. It still takes about 5 seconds before I get the haptic tap to tell me its counting, but the timer starts at 15, accounting for when it first picked up the water sound/running motion. Just tested it before writing this comment to be sure. Setup: Apple Watch SE running 7.0.2. I don’t wash very vigorously but I estimate about 3-4 back and forth motions per hand, per second if that helps standardize this any.