Beyond some phenomenal products, Steve Jobs helped define exactly what good design meant for the computer age. Here are his most enduring ideals.
Everyone who cares, even modestly, about design can name a few decisive events that set them on that path. Steve Jobs was no different, but he was also extraordinarily lucky: The formative design lessons he got were so far ahead of their time that they would lay the groundwork for Apple’s success with the Macintosh, the iMac, iPhone, and the iPad. Here’s six of the defining design lessons that Jobs learned, and which imbued every product he created.
1. Craft, Above All – Under Jobs, Apple became famous for a level of craft that seemed almost gratuitous: For example, on the “Sunflower” Macintosh of a few years ago, there was an exquisitely fine, laser-etched Apple logo. As an owner, you might see that logo only once a year, when moving the computer. But it mattered, because that single time made an impression.
2, 3, and 4: Empathy, Focus, and…Impute?! – In the early 1980s, design was a niche profession, and “design thinking,” a process that emphasized empathy with user needs, hadn’t been fully articulated yet. But Mike Markkula–one of the first investors in Apple, one of the first grown-ups to work there, and another father figure to Jobs–managed to anticipate lessons that were decades away from being in common circulation. He was the one that wrote “The Apple Marketing Philosophy,” a memo that you can think of as the fundamental DNA of Apple over three decades
5. Friendliness – Maybe the biggest conceptual leap that Steve Jobs made in the early days of Apple was to recognize that high-tech devices could be friendly. Throughout the years, Apple has made cutting-edge devices seem friendly, and that’s a design strategy specifically intended to appeal to novice consumers and anyone overwhelmed by the capabilities of a computer.
6. Finding simplicity for the future in metaphors from the past – Jobs wanted his products to be simple above all else. But Jobs realized early on that for them to be simple and easy to use, they had to be based on things that people already understood. What was true of the first Macintosh graphical interface is true of the iPhone and iPad–the range of physical metaphors, and, eventually, the physical gestures that control them, map directly with what we already do in the real world. That’s the true key to creating an intuitive interface