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Apple’s 8 secrets to great design (genius strategy)
As taught by Steve Jobs from inside Apple design, that every designer must know.
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Hello, fellow readers!
Last week, I took a short break to recharge and be inspired on what is out there in the wild world. Our team even hosted our first San Francisco Community Night in 2023 together with the team at Figma 🌟.
That said, let’s take dive into one of the most prominent figures of our generation.
Steve Jobs famously said innovation is, "saying no to 1,000 things."
But how did they do it, and what can you learn from Apple? Apple is known for its revolutionary white, clean, and simple design.
Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple, was known for his unparalleled vision and design philosophy, which led to the creation of groundbreaking products.
This week’s newsletter will explore 8 key design lessons from Steve Jobs that have left an indelible mark on Apple and the tech industry.
We will also provide historical examples of how these lessons have influenced Apple's inventions and design choices.
8 design lessons from Steve Jobs that every designer must know (genius strategy):
Lesson 1: Simplicity is beauty
One of the core principles of Steve Jobs' design philosophy was to make products as simple and user-friendly as possible.
True story: This can be seen in the original Macintosh computer (1984), which featured a graphical user interface that made it easy for non-technical users to interact with computers.
Lesson 2: Form follows function
Jobs believed that design should always be in service of the function of a product.He famously said:
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
True story: The MacBook Air (2008) embodied this principle, with its ultra-thin, lightweight design that didn't compromise on performance.
Lesson 3: Use Storytelling
The idea/status was sold through storytelling. Jobs was a master at creating a sense of wonder and excitement around Apple products.
True story: The "Think Different" campaign focused on the people who thought differently and changed the world. And if you bought a Mac, you thought different. Because you too, could change the world.
Lesson 4: Show Don’t Tell
Jobs was a firm believer in demonstrating an experience, rather than relying on words. By creating products that were visually appealing, intuitive, and easy to use, Apple was able to demonstrate the value of its devices without resorting to excessive marketing or technical explanations.
Apple has successfully adopted a "show, don't tell" approach, reinforcing the company's commitment to user experience and design excellence.
A classic example: When introducing the iPad, he showed how easy it was to use touch gestures on the device. Or pulling the first-ever iPod out from his pockets (a 1,000 songs in your pocket, remember?)
Lesson 5: Own a Visual Language
Jobs believed that a consistent visual language was essential for creating a brand identity. From iOS, Apple Store, Hardware to Advertising.
The visual language that Jobs cultivated for Apple incorporated minimalist design principles, consistent use of typography, and a focus on user experience. It helped establish Apple’s reputation as a company that always focused on good design.
Real case: This can be seen in the evolution of the Apple logo, from its early rainbow-striped design to the sleek, monochromatic apple symbol we know today. This iconic logo represents the essence of Apple's design philosophy and has become synonymous with the brand.
Lesson 6: Trust Your Instincts
Would you believe if I told you my friend at Apple tells me that they barely “design with data?” They design, demo, design demo and just keep doing it.
This is exactly what Apple stands for, that obsession with experience - and it’s an instinct built into the company culture.
Data is only one side of a story. Jobs believed in trusting his instincts when it came to design. He was willing to make decisions that went against the grain, and this often resulted in innovative and groundbreaking designs.
True Story: A perfect example of trusting his instincts can be seen in the development of the first iPhone. Despite concerns from Apple engineers about its feasibility and the saturated mobile phone market, Jobs insisted on creating a device that combined a phone, a music player, and an internet communicator. His intuition paid off, as the iPhone went on to revolutionize the smartphone industry and become one of the most successful consumer electronics products of all time.
Lesson 7: Reinvent Borrowed Ideas
Jobs was a master at taking existing ideas and making them better. He had a knack for taking these concepts and reinventing them in a way that made them uniquely Apple.
Jobs once famously quoted, "Good artists copy, great artists steal," emphasizing the importance of using existing ideas as a starting point and then improving upon them.
Walkman to iPod
iPod + Internet to iPhone
Dropbox to iCloud
Wax Tablet to iPad
He was always looking for ways to improve existing designs, to make them more efficient & stylish.
True story: The development of the Macintosh's graphical user interface (GUI). While the concept of a GUI was not new, having been pioneered by Xerox at their Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Jobs and his team took the idea and refined it, creating a more user-friendly and visually appealing interface
Lesson 8: Focus By Saying "No."
This is probably the most important lesson of all.
Staying organized and focused is critical.
Jobs once said; “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do”. Eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities. Now time to think.
True Story: When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and found the company struggling with a cluttered product lineup. He immediately decided to cut down the number of products from over 20 to just 4. This decision allowed Apple to focus on creating a more refined and cohesive product lineup, ultimately leading to the release of the iconic iMac G3 in 1998.
Simplicity is beauty
Form follows function
Show don’t tell
Own a visual language
Trust your instinct
Reinvent borrowed ideas
Focus By Saying "No."
I hope you find it inspiring from this week’s post 🙏. Good luck! What do you think about Steve Jobs’s design philosophies? And what else would you like us to cover next week to help you grow? Comment below 👇
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