Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Secret of Apple Design

How Apple has been so successful with it's designs ...

"Apple, Inc. has made an art of not talking about its products. Fans, journalists, and rumormongers who love it or love to hate it have long had to practice a sort of Kremlinology to gather the merest hints as to what is coming next out of Cupertino.

A case in point is this story, which was to be about the iPhone--about how an innovative and gorgeous piece of technology was conceived, designed, and produced by the vaunted industrial-design team at Apple. Along the way, it would address the larger question of how one company can so consistently excel at making products that become icons, win design awards, and inspire customers.

But the omerta that prevails at Apple proved too strong. Company representatives declined to speak with me, and sources only tangentially engaged with the industrial-design process said that they could not talk either. When I asked Paul Kunkel, author of the 1997 book AppleDesign, for tips on obtaining interviews, he laughed and said, "Go sit outside the design-group offices with a pizza." What follows is as clear a picture of the Apple design process as we could get.

Designers tend to speak about the "genetic code" of products and companies. Pontiacs and BMWs, for example, can be recognized but also distinguished from each other by their split grilles. In some products, such distinctive characteristics serve mainly to aid brand recognition. But in complex objects such as computers, they can also signal operational familiarity: a customer who knows how to use product A will be able to use product B.

To whatever degree Apple can be said to make products with a distinctive genetic code, they can also be said to have inherited most of their traits from a single parent: founder Steve Jobs. Jobs left the company in 1985 and didn't return until 1997. Nonetheless, according to many who have worked at Apple, sometimes in close proximity to Jobs, it was largely he who established the company's emphasis on industrial design. Indeed, some would say that he made design a higher priority than technology."    (Continued via Technology Review)    [Usability Resources]

The First iPod - Usability, User Interface Design

The First iPod

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