In a poignant reflection on what it was like to know the man outside of the workplace, Peter Robinson writes in Steve Job’s Chopsticks about Steve’s obsessive drive to design. It was never the technology per se; the technology was merely a means to a larger end. And Steve Jobs saw the end more clearly than his competitors. Unlike Microsoft and even Google, designers are king at Apple, as this article at Cult of Mac points out (a big, big hat tip to the invaluable Farnham Street blog for that article link. And if you’re not reading it, why not?)
Microsoft hires some of the smartest people in the world. They are known for their incredibly challenging test they put people through to get hired. It’s not an issue of people being smart and talented. It’s that design at Apple is at the highest level of the organization, led by Steve personally. Design at other companies is not there. It is buried down in the bureaucracy somewhere… In bureaucracies many people have the authority to say no, not the authority to say yes. So you end up with products with compromises. This goes back to Steve’s philosophy that the most important decisions are the things you decide NOT to do, not what you decide to do. It’s the minimalist thinking again.
When I changed the Archytas Group tagline to Insight by Design I wasn’t thinking specifically of Apple’s design influence on North America’s business aesthetic, but there’s no question Apple played a huge role in shaping it, no matter whether you use their products or not. Japanese chopsticks, high end Italian supercars, custom jewelry, origami paper, it didn’t matter. Nothing seemed to escape Jobs’s nose for design and it rippled all the way to fonts, logos, and retail stores. Like Walt Disney before him, Jobs knew, intuitively it seems, before his many reinventions of himself, that what his customers wanted was an aesthetic experience they couldn’t get anywhere else. Dostoevsky is famous for the quote “Beauty will save the world”. True or not, there’s no question it saved Apple.
I’ll bore my clients, friends and colleagues later with the neuroscience, but today I’m going to start looking at that Pilot-Namiki Vanishing Point fountain pen, think about getting the nib custom ground, and dust off a book on 16th century Italic writing instead of trying to source a new Intuos4 wireless pen tablet. Not because its more efficient, and not because its wireless, but because it looks better on a hardwood floor.
(Photo linked to Cult of Mac)