This Is It. This Is Apple. This Is Their Design.

on July 11, 2013

On June 10, 2013, during the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote, Apple unveiled two new videos: “Intention” and “Our Signature

Two videos, but only one message.

Author’s note: All of the quotes from Apple’s videos are: “in bold text”.

“This is it.”

In those videos, Apple revealed its mission, its purpose, its essence, its raison d’etre and – perhaps – a bit of its soul.

This is the post-Steve Jobs manifesto. This is Tim Cook’s Apple. This is Apple’s new brand. This is Apple.

Something happens to companies when they get to be a few million dollars — their souls go away. And that’s the biggest thing I’ll be measured on: Were we able to grow a $10 billion company that didn’t lose its soul? ~ Steve Jobs

“This is what matters.”

“Listen up,” Apple is virtually saying to its customers, its employees, its investors, the analysts, the media, the pundits, and even to its competitors. “Listen up,” Apple is saying, “we’re telling you who we are and how we roll. This is our plan. This is our design. This is our intention. You should be paying attention.”

The Questions One Asks Inform The Answers One Receives

“The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution.” ~ Bertrand Russell

“The first thing we ask is:

How it makes someone feel.

The experience of a product.

Who will this help?

Will it make life better?

Does this deserve to exist?”

Wow. Just wow.

Look at the types of extraordinary questions that Apple is asking itself. Talk about Thinking Different. It takes one’s breath away.

— Do you think that Microsoft asked such questions before it foisted Windows 8 on its customers?
— Do you think that Google asked such questions before it announced the Nexus Q?
— Do you think that Dell asked such questions — about anything, ever?
— Do you think that Apple asked such questions before they announced their mapping solution last year? ((Maps was a strategic move, a business move, perhaps even a mandatory move. But Apple has paid a terrible public relations price for prioritizing their needs over the needs of their customers.))
— Does your organization – or any organization you know – ask such piercing questions?

Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.

Let’s pause and take a moment to parse these questions a bit further.

“How it makes someone feel. The experience of a product.”

Ultimately, of course, design defines so much of our experience. ~ Jony Ive

This is huge. Apple doesn’t start with the specs or the features. They don’t start with corporate budgets or corporate agendas. They don’t start with what it should look like or how it fits into their current product lineup.

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology — not the other way around. ~ Steve Jobs

Apple starts with how the product or service makes someone FEEL. That person’s EXPERIENCE with the product.

It’s not just a people first approach, it’s an emotion first approach too.

Apple doesn’t define the “job to be done” in technological terms. They define the job to be done in emotional terms — by whether their devices make their customers feel:

“Delight, surprise, love, connection”

This is the ecosystem argument. That devices are superior when they are less centered around technology and features and more centered around cohesiveness and experience.

The fallacy most make when critiquing Apple’s services is to believe that Apple needs to out-innovate competing services. The truth is, all they need to do is out-integrate them. ~ Ben Bajarin

Bill Gates once said that Steve Jobs “never really understood much about technology.” But that’s because Bill Gates wanted to believe that superior technology alway wins. He actually had it backwards. It’s not about making technology that works. It’s about making technology that works the way we do.

“The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious.” ~ Steve Jobs

“(T)he opportunity is not in designing a better “user interface” but designing a better “user experience.” ~ Damir Perge

“… we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simple. ~ Steve Jobs

“Who will this help? Will it make life better?”

They say that Apple understands what makes people tick; that Apple is a human-focused technology company. If Apple starts their product design by asking great questions like these, is it any wonder that this is so?

Apple’s magic is in the way it evaluates a product in order to answer the question “How would average humans like to use this?”—without actually asking average humans. … (W)hen you rely on focus groups and checklists of features, you end up with a projector phone. Or, like HP, you end up with computers that look exactly like Apple’s but lack the ease of use and thoughtful design. ~ John Moltz

Much of the difference between Microsoft and Apple — or between Apple and just about everyone else — is not the technology, but the usability. The real killer appeal of the iPod or the iPhone or the iPad is how easy they are to use, and how integral that ease of use and design is to the product itself.

I’m sure when Bill Gates looks at the iPad or the iPhone, he thinks about all the features it doesn’t have, or all the things that it can’t do. But no one else thinks about those things — all they are interested in is what they can do, and how much fun it is doing them, and how appealing those devices are. And that is one of Steve Jobs’ biggest gifts to the world of technology and design. ~ Mathew Ingram, Gigaom

Customers can’t tell you what they want, but they can most certainly tell you what dissatisfies them. It’s in the customers’ unmet needs that the real opportunities for technology lie.

“Good design makes a product understandable. It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.” ~ Dieter Rams ((“Jobs was a famous admirer of Dieter Rams, a designer for Braun who had a number of mottos and aphorisms about design — one of which was that “good design will make a product understandable.” That applies to a lot of Apple’s most famous products, which were so painstakingly designed to be usable, even when (like the original iPod shuffle) they didn’t even have a screen to tell you what was going on inside them.))

“Does this deserve to exist?”

Talk about bringing things into focus. What a brutal filter to use in order to curate what does and does not get made at Apple.

“(W)hy are we doing this in the first place?” ~ Steve Jobs

Most companies are so busy asking whether something “could” be done that they never stop to ask themselves whether something “should” be done. ((Take the Microsoft Kin, for example. (Please!) ))

“We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too.” ~ Steve Jobs

Remember the quote, above, the next time you think about the rumored low-cost iPhone (or a myriad of other rumored Apple products.) Apple doesn’t cripple their products just to achieve lower price points because Apple only makes products that they, themselves, want to use. And they don’t want to use the equivalent of a Kin, Google TV or Nook. ((To be perfectly fair, no one else wants to use a Kin, Google TV or Nook, either.))

He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds. ~ Dag Hammarskjöld

This Is Our Design

Where does Apple start? Do they start where they are? Do they start with their current design?


“We start over”

“…Jobs was willing to completely start over with a product or service if it missed the mark. This requirement for perfection is highlighted numerous times in his biography and is rarely, if ever, followed by traditional companies when they are headed down the path of launching a new product, service or experience. ~ Eric V. Holtzclaw, Inc.

Starting over changes everything.

“When you start by imagining
What that might be like,
You step back.
You think.”

It allows one to see, not what can be added to what already exists, but what can be created from all of existence. It allows one to contemplate, not just the conceivable but what was once thought to be inconceivable too. It allows one to untether from what is, and to explore what might be.

It allows one to imagine. It allows one to dream.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ~ Henry Miller

When you or I buy a sofa, we move around the contents of the room in order to make the new sofa fit in. If Apple buys a sofa – and they think that it is perfect – they are willing to re-design and re-build the entire house in order to make the house fit in with the sofa.

“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.” ~ Albert Einstein

Starting over allows one to paint with a fresh palette.

“I dream my painting and paint my dream.” ~ Vincent van Gogh

White. A blank page or canvas. So many possibilities. ~ Stephen Sondheim

Starting over allows one to dream, and to dream big.

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can reach. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries and predecessors; try to be better than yourself.

“We’re gambling on our vision, and we would rather do that than make ‘me too’ products. Let some other companies do that. For us, it’s always the next dream.” ~ Steve Jobs

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“Designing something requires focus.”

“We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of many of the things we haven’t done as the things we have done.” ~ Steve Jobs

Divide the fire and you will soon put it out. ~ Greek Proverb

“There are a thousand ‘no’s’ for every ‘yes'”

Does Samsung ask the hard questions, make the hard decisions, or do they let their customers do the work? Do they ever say “no”, so their customers don’t have to? ((Samsung has 26 different screen sizes for its smartphones and tablets. Apple, by contrast, has four different screen sizes. Throw spaghetti against a wall model may be good for some, but it is not Apple’s model.

“Samsung has a history of confusing customers with an outpouring of phone models … (Samsung) revealed a bunch of new features for the phone like S Health, hovering over the phone, new security features, eye-tracking, two-way photography, and much more. Most, if not all, of these features were pointless.”

MOSSBERG: The Samsung Galaxy S4 Has ‘Especially Weak,’ ‘Gimmicky’ Software))

Does Microsoft say no? Or do they tell you that their tablet is really a notebook and their notebook is really a tablet. Does Windows 8 give you one operating system optimized for the form factor or do they give you two operating systems and let you sort it out? Or do they give you three separate operating systems in the Xbox One and actually brag about it?

Does Google say no with Android? Or do they give their users feature after feature after feature without thought to how each feature works with one another and whether the net benefit is outweighed by the cognitive cost?

Good design is honest. It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept. ~ Dieter Rams

“We simplify”

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo DaVinci

When people talk about Apple’s design principles and philosophy, they often mention the unrelenting focus on simplicity (based in part on Rams’ motto: “Less, but better”). Jobs said that among the most important decisions in product design were what not to include and that this process involved “saying no to 1,000 things.” That’s a very difficult principle to adhere to at the best of times — but it’s especially hard if you are a technology geek and obsessed with all the ways in which your product is going to beat your competitors because of the cool features it has. That’s what causes the classic “feature creep” phenomenon, which often occurs when professional engineers get hold of a device. ~ Mathew Ingram, Gigaom

I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency… True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It’s about bringing order to complexity. ~ Jony Ive

“Look at the design of a lot of consumer products — they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there. We believe that customers are smart, and want objects which are well thought through.” ~ Steve Jobs

Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction. ~ Albert Einstein

“It’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ~ Steve Jobs

Good design is as little design as possible. ~ Dieter Rams

“We perfect”

“Good design is thorough down to the last detail. Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.” ~ Dieter Rams

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

“For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” ~ Steve Jobs

Trifles make perfections, but perfection is itself no trifle. ~ Shaker proverb

I don’t think it’s good that Apple’s perceived as different. I think it’s important that Apple’s perceived as much better. If being different is essential to doing that, then we have to do that, but if we can be much better without being different, that’d be fine with me. I want to be much better. ~ Steve Jobs

There is hardly anything in the world that some man can’t make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey. ~ John Ruskin

Design Is How It Works

“Then we begin to craft around our intention”

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” ~ Douglas Adams

“Until every idea we touch Enhances each life it touches.”

“Good design makes a product useful. A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.” ~ Dieter Rams

“We have always thought of design as being so much more than the way something looks. It’s the whole thing, the way something works on so many different levels.” ~ Jony Ive

“(Apple’s) ideology is design. It is a shared belief system that ‘No’ is more important than ‘Yes,’ that focus is essential to making great products, and that no one individual (not even Steve Jobs) is essential.” ~ Ben Thompson, Stratechery

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works. ~ Steve Jobs

If the question is: “What job is this being asked to do?”, then Design is the guide and the pathway to the answer.

Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation… ~ Steve Jobs

What Makes Apple Different?

Do you want to know what makes Apple different? What sets them apart? How they attract the types of fans that Microsoft, Google and Samsung mock and denigrate but secretly envy and aspire to attain?

“What makes Apple come up with these great ideas while other computer makers stand around waiting for Jonathan Ive to tell them what to do next? ~ Don Reisinger

Is it Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, corporate culture, focus on quality, superior marketing, how they touch our emotions or some combination of all those things?

Is it because Apple is great at editing what’s possible, selecting options, saying no to things, and making something great by making it less, but better? ((These ideas were culled from Marco Arment, Accidental Tech Podcast, #14: Pouring Champagne onto Rap stars.))

If there was ever a product that catalyzed what’s Apple’s reason for being, it’s (the iPod). Because it combines Apple’s incredible technology base with Apple’s legendary ease of use with Apple’s awesome design… it’s like, this is what we do. So if anybody was ever wondering why is Apple on the earth, I would hold this up as a good example. ~ Steve Jobs

No. What makes Apple great is their passionate pursuit of perfection.

“Our goal is to make the best devices in the world, not to be the biggest.” ~ Steve Jobs

“For us, winning has never been about making the most. Arguably we make the best….” ~ Tim Cook

Does Apple always hit their target? Not hardly. They quite often miss their mark.

But as hard as it is to achieve perfection when one is trying, it’s virtually impossible to achieve perfection when that is not even one’s aim.

“The odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it.” ~ Mal Pancoast

At least Apple is trying. And they are passionately trying.

Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” ~ Vince Lombardi

“I think back to Detroit in the seventies, when cars were so bad. Why? The people running the companies then didn’t love cars. One of the things wrong with the PC industry today is that most of the people running the companies don’t love PCs. Does Steve Ballmer love PCs? Does Craig Barrett love PCs? Does Michael Dell love PCs? If Michael Dell wasn’t selling PCs he’d be selling something else. These people don’t love what they create. And people here do.” ~ Steve Jobs

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’re just enthusiastic about what we do. ~ Steve Jobs

Apple relishes the challenge. And they love the chase.

“You cannot kindle a fire in any other heart until it is burning in your own.”

Apple is the standard bearer of excellence. And that is why people love Apple – why they actively root for them – despite Apple’s many imperfections. People are not just rooting for Apple, they’re rooting for an ideal. They’re rooting, not just for what Apple is but, for what Apple aspires to become.

“Ideals are like stars: you will not succeed in touching them with your hands, but like the seafaring man on the ocean desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them, you reach your destiny. ~ Carl Schurz