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Apple's design process

Posted by: Helen Walters on March 8, 2008

Interesting presentation at SXSW from Michael Lopp, senior engineering manager at Apple, who tried to assess how Apple can ‘get’ design when so many other companies try and fail. After describing Apple’s process of delivering consumers with a succession of presents (“really good ideas wrapped up in other really good ideas” — in other words, great software in fabulous hardware in beautiful packaging), he asked the question many have asked in their time: “How the f*ck do you do that?” (South by Southwest is at ease with its panelists speaking earthily.) Then he went into a few details:

Pixel Perfect Mockups
This, Lopp admitted, causes a huge amount of work and takes an enormous amount of time. But, he added, “it removes all ambiguity.” That might add time up front, but it removes the need to correct mistakes later on.

10 to 3 to 1
Apple designers come up with 10 entirely different mock ups of any new feature. Not, Lopp said, "seven in order to make three look good", which seems to be a fairly standard practice elsewhere. They'll take ten, and give themselves room to design without restriction. Later they whittle that number to three, spend more months on those three and then finally end up with one strong decision.

Paired Design Meetings
This was really interesting. Every week, the teams have two meetings. One in which to brainstorm, to forget about constraints and think freely. As Lopp put it: to "go crazy". Then they also hold a production meeting, an entirely separate but equally regular meeting which is the other's antithesis. Here, the designers and engineers are required to nail everything down, to work out how this crazy idea might actually work. This process and organization continues throughout the development of any app, though of course the balance shifts as the app progresses. But keeping an option for creative thought even at a late stage is really smart.

Pony Meeting
This refers to a story Lopp told earlier in the session, in which he described the process of a senior manager outlining what they wanted from any new application: "I want WYSIWYG... I want it to support major browsers... I want it to reflect the spirit of the company." Or, as Lopp put it: "I want a pony!" He added: "Who doesn't? A pony is gorgeous!" The problem, he said, is that these people are describing what they think they want. And even if they're misguided, they, as the ones signing the checks, really cannot be ignored.

The solution, he described, is to take the best ideas from the paired design meetings and present those to leadership, who might just decide that some of those ideas are, in fact, their longed-for ponies. In this way, the ponies morph into deliverables. And the C-suite, who are quite reasonable in wanting to know what designers are up to, and absolutely entitled to want to have a say in what's going on, are involved and included. And that helps to ensure that there are no nasty mistakes down the line.

Reader Comments


March 12, 2008 10:23 AM

Awesome thanks for the inside

Chris Blow

March 12, 2008 12:42 PM

"a huge amount of work and takes an enormous amount of time."

Oh, right, that always helps!

J. Kevin Tumlinson

March 12, 2008 4:44 PM

Kind of a "tried-and-true" approach to concepting. Where I think Apple stands out is in considering form first, then function (as opposed to form OVER function, which makes for pretty pieces of useless junk).


March 12, 2008 4:54 PM

Linking everything back to itself is STUPID.
Only MORONs do that

Jon King

March 12, 2008 6:53 PM

I am surprised they reveled this much about their process... but glad they did.

Turk Backman

March 12, 2008 10:34 PM

To summarize:

1. Design

2. Mock-up

3. Present ideas to management

Very original.


March 13, 2008 8:18 AM

@Turk ... to summarize your comment:

1. Boil insightful info from interview into lame and obvious steps.

2. Put them in an order that everyone else uses.

3. Mock them as being unoriginal.

Very original.


March 13, 2008 9:08 AM

Actually, the idea of paired design meetings is fairly original, and ingenious. Too often during the design phase we constrain ourselves by what can be done. If someone suggest something a little far fetched, they're shot down for "dragging out the meeting" and wasting peoples time. Having one meeting a week specifically scheduled to allow designers(of all flavors) to present their most wild ideas, without the boundries of feasibility is a great way to push the evelope. The iPhone and MacBook air must have both started this way. Someone had to suggest that there would not be a removable battery, which at the time was a completely insane idea, but has since proved to be brilliant.


March 13, 2008 1:22 PM

"That might add time up front, but it removes the need to correct mistakes later on."

If only more companies would allow their Engineers to spend more time up front to catch problems and issues early in the development process. The earlier you catch a problem, the easier (read: cheaper) it is to correct.

Warren Stringer

March 13, 2008 2:14 PM

I wonder about Apple's approach to Why versus How.

I took Alan Cooper's class on interaction design. The focus was to start with a Persona, discover her goal, and then create the simplest path to reach that goal. This approach seems at odds with some Microsoft products that give you as many paths to reach as many goals as possible.

My impression is that a big Why at Apple is to make the thing a pleasure to behold. This goes beyond simply a Persona's goal and focuses on the means as well as the ends. For some people, an Apple *is* the Pony. The tradeoff is: does this Pony go anywhere, or is it a kiddy ride that goes around in a circle?

This may sound down on Apple. It isn't. I'm typing this on a MBP - my first Mac since a Ci - and the first machine since my Sharp Mebius PJ that is an absolute joy to use. We're going places.


Chilton Webb

March 13, 2008 3:02 PM

This is absolutely fascinating from a design standpoint. Apple obviously makes hardware and software we love, but exactly how their process works is very interesting. I always assumed if they used rough sketches as the last step before they shipped. Every professional designer and especially every software development group I've ever worked with did, so it's interesting to me that Apple does not.

-Chilton Webb

Micah Beals

March 13, 2008 5:05 PM

From my experience, it's not just the processes that create good design but a culture that encourages and supports those processes. Upper and middle management down through project management and development need to have an understanding and appreciation of design. My experience has been that efforts to improve processes to include/utilize design better are short lived. Teams will agree up-front to try a new process, but end up reverting to what they are comfortable with. Kudos to Apple on what I assume is a culture that respects design.


March 13, 2008 6:02 PM

It's not the process, if it were that simple every company would be Apple. Its the people, the culture of the company and the leadership.

Some people mistake process for work, process is simple, mechanical, that anyone barely qualified can come up with, usually it's this narrow focus on process this which kills creativity


March 13, 2008 7:03 PM

Part of Apple's success is that they are a public company willing to forgo short-term gain for larger long-term payoffs. For example, the development of the iPhone (based on various accounts) is impressive because Steve Jobs was willing to hit the reset button on a major product that didn't turn out quite right. The result is a successful new wireless mobile platform instead of just an iPod with some phone functionality.

Jason L. Shiffer

March 13, 2008 7:28 PM

Process is, by definition, the constraints under which you do something. That does not make it good or bad. Baking bread requires a process or it will not come out right.

What is important is that the process and the ingredients are equally important to get a desired result.

Often it is believed that with just the right process you can add any ingredients in any amounts you want and still get a nice big loaf in the end, which is obviously false.

The converse, that with the right ingredients the process does not matter, is also false.


March 13, 2008 7:42 PM

There's another element here too that I haven't heard voiced. Apple seems to not only make a good looking and good performing product, but they then "bet the farm" on it, so to speak, with brilliant presentation packaging and advertising!


March 13, 2008 11:12 PM

To attempt to distill a process from genius is to totally miss the point.

This article contradicts everything I heard about iphone development which was jobs himself put the pieces together from various teams.

Only in a culture of bureacrats would the solution be distilled into a process any bureaucrat or child could follow with absolutely no results.

Its genius that rules, and everything else is intellectual poverty, process or not.

I dont have to worry much about this, as I am a genius. Processes are the crutches of fools and incompetents.


March 14, 2008 12:54 AM

How hard they worked to achieve their success... 10 to 3 to 1 is fantastic. But wondering how is it possible by others.


March 14, 2008 7:43 AM

Btn had it perfectly:

Part of Apple's success is that they are a public company willing to forgo short-term gain for larger long-term payoffs.

Having this as your base, before your desire for great design; meaning actual working, not failing & then beautiful design is key for this kind of company. Any great art/design school teaches these principals of design first. If you build it & build it right, the people will come. The part that Btn has right is the basis for a great design company, because at the end of the day, that's what Apple is. It's too bad the music industry can't follow that "part" of Apple's success. Maybe if they changed their goal to this, they can figure out their problems...

Bill Gates

March 14, 2008 8:03 AM

I have personally become somewhat surprised on how the latest and greatest Mac OS software upgrades have become less stable, crash more often, more vulnerable to viruses and becoming more easily accessible for hackers... You would think that Mac OS X was running Windows XP or some other Microsoft software?

Dan Weinreb

March 14, 2008 8:20 AM

Raul says: If it were that simple, every company would be Apple. I don't agree with that. Companies have their own cultures which are very hard to change. And not every company even knows how Apple does it. And, even knowing how Apple does it, I bet very few companies would actually change how THEY do it; managers often have strong beliefs in how things should be done, and many are not willing to learn and experiment.

I do agree with your point that having good people makes a huge difference. Apple, knowing how Apple works, presumably interviews looking for people who will fit the Apple culture.


March 14, 2008 8:21 AM

What I want to know is how much time are these designers/engineers working per week? If they are constantly revising and revising you can say for sure they're not putting in 40 hour weeks....

From what I read about the iphone people didn't see their families for months. lol

Steven Kim

March 14, 2008 8:45 AM

Apple's design process is not original, but its proactive, open-minded and creative culture allows for the process to flourish.

Brian Simpson

March 14, 2008 8:45 AM

It's simply the pursuit of excellence! If Steve Jobs hadn't been as interested in design as he is in winning through (read iCon) Apple products would look as dull as any other electronic companies. Look at the Gil Amelio years.
There is an Apple philosophy for the look and feel of it's product and that doesn't come from committee, it needs someone to take the lead. Processes and creativity are great tools but they still need direction.


March 14, 2008 9:16 AM

They don't bet the farm, it appears that way. The last time Apple bet the farm was in switching to OS X and moving to Intel. And that was proven in research for a while. Apple is very strategic in their approach to anything they do, and believe that it should be a brilliant presentation. It's the Culture.


March 14, 2008 9:50 AM

1. Find a bunch of 1960's Braun products
2. Copy them

Shelton Davis

March 14, 2008 10:08 AM

Still sheltered from the REAL ID world being a graduate ID student at Georgia Tech I was surprised that their process isn't widely used. It seems, well, common sense.

What leads certain design companies to turn out 3 dogs and 7 filler concepts in order to complete 10 ideations for a client? Is it management's fault? The client's expectations?

Or is it as MICAH BEALS says it, "Kudos to Apple on what I assume is a culture that respects design."

What makes us respectable like those building makers (architects)?


March 14, 2008 10:30 AM

The insertion of the e*pletive in this article is totally unnecessary here. Don't distract readers from a good article by interjecting that kind of garbage. It makes it hard to distribute in the workplace.

Still, thanks for the article.


March 14, 2008 12:01 PM

The expletive was part of a quote. They used an asterisk instead of a U. Stop reading the internet and get back to work if you have a problem with it.

Gryphon MacThoy

March 14, 2008 12:55 PM

This kind of process is the kind that exists when the leaders have good insight to the creative and product development process. Otherwise, the leaders just tell the 'builders' to 'hurry up' and the builders are paid to churn out product.

10-3-1 is fascinating. I'm going to implement it immediately.

usario clave

March 14, 2008 2:09 PM

You know, none of this process stuff is rocket science. You read it, and you think "heck, that sounds easy."

Try implementing it in real life. If you think it's easy, you obviously are completely ineffective in your organization, or you're a liar.

Apple shares its process because if your organization could do it, it'd be doing it already. If you can't do it, you won't be able to without a cultural overhaul, which'll cripple your company for at least a year or two.


March 14, 2008 2:15 PM

apple is a monarchy

German Bauer

March 14, 2008 5:53 PM

I think their approach of starting in Hi-Fidelity can work there because Apple as products and organization already have a strong design identity across the company, and their products are fairly predictable from a technology/innovation perspective. The art of Apple lies in the details and the execution, not in raw innovation and advancement.

I do not think this Hi-Fidelity approach works well in more innovative areas with more unknowns, where you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. Which is much less painful when done in high volume and low fidelity.


March 14, 2008 11:36 PM

Apple's secret comes from their culture, and that comes from their leadership. But that doesn't say it cannot be duplicated elsewhere. Just need those elements first.

I like the paired design meetings idea. Usually one starts with the wild-eyed brainstorming, then get down to serious business, as a linear process. To continue the brainstorming right through the project sounds good to me (as a creative type!) Just yesterday, after a year of work on a project, I had a "wild" idea which may just get up -- and overcome the obstacles that have been dragging us back all that time. Sometimes you need a long lead time to get to a point where those crazy ideas actually make sense.


March 15, 2008 11:11 AM

Marcus has it correct. the biggest reason why apple churns out good products is all the decisions are ultimately made by Jobs and a very small circle of advisors. You don't have a bunch of middle managers imposing their useless two cents onto everything. Processwise, it's not too different from most design firms or organizations with design capability.


March 16, 2008 10:06 AM

I've been using a Toshiba laptop instead of usual Apple one. It's like comparing a tank with a Porsche. OK, Apple's design process is thorough, and mildly innovative, but that's not it. They succeed because they have an uncompromising vision - and they stick with it because their excellent design has become the overriding factor in consumers' buying decisions.


March 16, 2008 5:45 PM

Anyone else take this with a grain of salt?

I mean obviously it's true and bound to be accurate, but it's still corporate PR.


March 16, 2008 11:22 PM

I am a designer and did not find this in the least illuminating. Blah blah blah. I think Apple just has great leadership, a visionary at the helm, great respect for the power of design, and they hire good people. Apple is so secretive; I read somewhere once that their own employees don't know about certain products b/c Apple doesn't want anything leaked. That they would release any useful morsel of their process would be a surprise.


March 17, 2008 2:05 PM

Why was Mr. Lopp willing to share Apple's secret sauce? Because having a process is one thing but having the discipline and senior management buy-in to execute it is quite another. Any number of companies could attempt to clone what Mr. Lopp presents here but I doubt they have Apple's underlying culture and infrastructure to pull it off.


March 17, 2008 2:23 PM

This 1000 foot overview actually sounds somewhat like what the process is like at Pixar, by all acounts.

Sketch first, come up with the entire "story" before any actual production, and don't be afraid to start over or scrap it entirely.


March 18, 2008 8:04 PM

The missing link between process and a culture of embracing change is RIGOR. ie the discipline to apply a process rigorously without stifling creativity. Good design isn't just aesthetics but the constant application of some process to make the thing better on every level.

Didn't anyone notice the time lapse Apple allows its design teams to do their work. Most Apple wannabes out there couldn't afford Apple's luxury of time.


March 19, 2008 5:14 AM

There is leadership and direction from a revolutionary and innovative mastermind as the key ingredient behind all world changing creations. One individual with a passionate vision, penetrating insight, a brilliant mind and a relentless determination and focus. Think Shakespeare’s plays, Michelangelo’s sculptures, Disney’s animated films (and Pixars), Dylan’s songs, Edison’s inventions, Sony’s broadcast system, the Beatles music, and Apple’s digital revolution. An individual leader is key—a driving force from which all else follows.

Sjaak Blaauw

March 20, 2008 1:27 PM

Starts at the top, look at Ballmer/Gates, or "sir" howie Stringer at Sony. Not to speak about the Asian suits running co's that put out product in these arenas. Then look at Jobs.. Each and everyone except Jobs looks like a guy not knowing how to dress or be his own man in the looks arena. This guy Jobs is a geek but knows how not to package as a geek. Hey, great compliment in my book. And I don't even own any apple product, but that's another conversation of not wanting a pod and look like part of the "hip" herd..;-)


March 20, 2008 3:53 PM

Would love to hear a designer's perspective on why design at Apple is different.

These points strike me as entirely an engineering perspective on how design works. Valuable, but I'm sure there's more to it.


March 21, 2008 4:37 PM

it's the brand stupid

william padgett

March 22, 2008 9:20 AM

Apple's design process is not new. Our design program has been teaching it (100 thumbnails, 10 roughs, 1 comprehensive) for over twenty years. Maybe that's why one of our graduates is now a creative director at Apple.

What IS different is the fact the design is respected and utilized in Apple's business culture, much like B&O in Europe. Europeans value design and designers, the US does not. Business in the last decade finally realizes that design is the only way to innovate and the suits HAVE to work with the creatives in order to stay on top.

Peter Hoyland

March 23, 2008 5:36 AM

If there is an insight here, it's the pixel perfect mock-ups. Most design teams focus on "core functionality" which, once cracked, is then just too easy to lash together and launch. This approach disregards the huge amount of time needed to perfect the ergonomics and finishing design.

Try reversing the process - spend loads of time up front creating a "pixel-perfect" concept - and only start the hard graft development work when that is as good as you can possibly imagine it.

Daren Yoong

March 25, 2008 5:10 AM

I respect Apple's design process. I agree that the rigor in it counts a lot, but the process sets the baseline.


March 26, 2008 2:08 PM

I am an interaction and interface design student, undergoing formal training in one of the few IxD programs in the US. Apple is actually remarkably retrograde by our standards. Nowadays, most serious practitioners employ "user-centered design," which derives product specifications from close, painstaking observations of user tasks, repeated iterative testing, and constant refinement based on observations of actual behavior. The challenge is to remove your own preconceptions and genius ideas from the process. Surprisingly often, these designs look like nothing special, or even look really ugly. But ask Amazon and Google if they work.
Apple uses "genius" design, which is just the old "I will build it and they will come" model. There are some advantages to this. You can't crowdsource the Taj Mahal. On the other hand, one misstep means disaster (numerous times, as we've seen with Apple). Furthermore, the elegance and beauty of a design may obscure the fact that the product is actually not all that innovative or useful. The iPod is just the first MP3 player that women would agree to carry, just because of the colors, light weight, and rounded edges. Boom--double your market, and get it big enough to go viral. It's sad that we live in a society so dependent on the thinking of hide-bound engineers that this worked. But it's not genius either. (Tying it to a proprietary, viral system does approach genius, but no one pays attention to that.)
Macs are attractive and easy to use, sometimes exceptionally so. But they're not always reliable, are far more expensive, are incredibly underpowered (no flames, I just refer to bench testing with similar tasks), and still don't run a lot of software, including entertainment and other titles. In turn, this has kept them from widespread business adoption, as they don't meet the needs of most businesses. Even the recent Apple success has boosted Macs to...6%...of the market. So speaking as a designer, these are *not* good designs. Truly great designs come to seem inevitable, and as such become part of the daily landscape. Apple products are still evitable. And "process" or no, it's still a bunch of crap happening before Jobs decides. If he so much as gets a cold, kids, dump that stock.

David Yim

April 3, 2008 2:20 AM

I wonder if this is the exact same process that produced big flops such as Cube, Newton and etc. Whatever their success/failure ratio is, I do agree that there are a lot to learn from Apple and it is a great process as general baseline. An incredible market success of ipod/iphone does not validate its process as a standard one to follow.

David Selliman

July 16, 2008 6:01 PM

Bottom line, Apple has done a great job of bringing its design to market and fast. When looking back 7 years, they have accepted change. In the next 7 years they are targeted to have global market providing hardware and software the public is looking for!! Just maybe the Apple company (software and hardware) will become a standard, and Microsoft and Dell will be asking how did this happen. The lesson is look at Toyota and GM.


July 17, 2008 5:58 PM

"Even the recent Apple success has boosted Macs to...6%...of the market"

Oh, give me a BREAK with the market share crap! They have 16 billion bucks in the bank, and their stock is trading MUC higher than MS or Dell. They target high margin, high profit markets and not the commodity, low end garbage market like Dell or HP target.

They're most definitely doing something right, regardless of what armchair stockbrokers such as yourself think.


October 2, 2008 3:28 AM

Being an Industrial Designer is a tough (most of the time) and rewarding (some of the time)job, and being payed 1 million a year is a GREAT incentive.

Apple ID group does what it does through the white knight protection and cultivation of Mr. Jobs. Other US companies should follow suit, because their processes and products really suck lemons, (well maybe Apples as well!) Keep the bean counters from interfering with the creative and production processes!

I love your process Mr. Ive!


October 5, 2008 4:57 AM

Next Apple moves will be Books and Games…



October 10, 2008 4:26 PM

I can't believe people leave comments on this


February 5, 2009 7:53 AM

TD, you miss the point on so many levels that the designed world finally starts to make sense to me - now I know where it all comes from. You regard a "good" design as ... the one that gets sold the most? That becomes "inevitable"? What is that?

The iPod worked because of form factor? Of course not ... it was the first one where you could actually easily buy music legally (which is still what makes most people feel better) and put it on the darn player. Without hassle.

Try to burn a DVD, CD-rom, connect a laptop to a WIFI-netwerk, change the screen-settings so your beamer works for the presentation, all those easy tasks make a Mac stand out. To me, as a product designer and usability expert, that makes the difference. A nice outer shell is fine, but these darn things just work.

And not reliable? Have you ever looked into the music industry, where you want a computer on stage that works all the time, every second? *Everyone* there uses a Mac, for the lighting, the samples, the mixing. Because they are reliable. I have owned a digital sound studio with both Macs and PC's (custom-built high-end PC's, sheesh, the Macs were cheaper). Macs outperformed the PC's on any level. And did so on every occasion. Sorry.

And yes, as a student, you are taught user-centered-design. Which is great! More designers should know about it. But design-by-majority will always be a democratic compromise. And if the product you want to design does not exist yet, this process is fairly useless ... take it from the usability guy. People do not always know what they want. Researchers do not always ask the right questions, or observe the right behaviour. It takes insight and genius to come up with solutions in those cases. You will have to tell the people what they want. Apple does just that, and does it well. There are numerous examples (far more than those Apples failures) about user-centered-design that went completely wrong. Because the users did not know what they wanted, or what the product was they were reviewing. New Coke ... to name a mega user-researched catastrophe.


February 5, 2009 2:08 PM

So if this is true, and Apple's design "goes to 10", then can I assume that the reason the iphone after TWO YEARS still has no cut and paste is that all 10 designs for cutting and pasting sucked? Poor form Apple, poor form.

Also, 10 designs but still no cure for a single buttonitis?

Apple pretends it's about giving consumers what they want, but in so many cases Apple is like Google -- giving it their way or the highway. There's a culture of elitism and Not Invented Here that drags everything into a company-specific groupthink.

Daniel Buchner

February 5, 2009 5:13 PM

Haha...Brent said iTunes is easy, LMFAO.

That is one glitchy, constantly-updated for-what-seems-to-be-no-reason, why-do-they-love-AC3-and-DRM-so-much piece of software.

I will take Winamp over all of them 8 days a week!

John Woods

February 5, 2009 7:07 PM

Wow, most impressive. I always wondered about that!



February 5, 2009 7:36 PM

Here's the process at my company:

1) Sales person makes a sale, promising the client whatever they want, regardless of whether it's possible, by a ridiculously tight deadline (usually a week and a half if lucky, regardless of how many projects are on the plate)

2) Sales person either sends the info directly to me and/or to one of 7 Executive Team members who ALL have equal authority to force changes and suggestion to end product. Even the CFO.

3) I start the process. I ask for clarification from the client on direction/messaging and existing collateral/media to know which direction to go and to have high quality versions of logos and brand elements. I'm told they don't want to bother the client, so I should just get what I can off their website.

4) I try and create some sort of messaging based on what the client's done in the past and a design that's better, but similar, to their other creative

5) I send it to the sales person or an Executive Team member who has decided they want to be involved

6) These people send the design to all of the Executive Team members for review

7) A vast email conversation starts where each Executive Team member tells me things they don't like and want to change, oftentimes liking/disliking things another person dislikes/likes. I'm have to try and discern what's important.

8) I make a new design. Then they do it again. This probably happens for 3 or 4 days.

9) Executive Team members lose interest. Sales person moves onto other client. Design is left in a mess.

10) Design presented to client, who summarily rejects the messaging and many of the design ideals, telling me what they want and I'm chastised for not asking the client in the first place.



February 5, 2009 7:51 PM

The true brilliance was in selling IT gear to folks that know nothing about IT. Yep, it's expensive crap. Sorries.


February 5, 2009 11:17 PM








February 6, 2009 6:10 AM

I love all the people slagging these concepts off as stupid and unoriginal.

Look who's using these techniques and who's making the money. Duh!

Why do people hate Apple? Simple... jealousy. Flame on...!

Sints Paidwell

February 6, 2009 8:10 AM

Fanboiz always forget that nothing scrapple does is original, and almost always stolen. Crapple is stolen ideas layerd with 9 helpings of glossy hype.


February 7, 2009 2:22 PM

> Fanboiz always forget that nothing
> scrapple does is original, and almost
> always stolen

There is a difference between stealing an idea and making it better (Apple) and stealing an idea an making it worse (Microsoft).

Anyone can claim that any idea is just a ripoff of a previous idea, but businesses are built on making and selling products, not ideas.

So I'd say that Apple has the three things needed for a successful business - a good design process (even if it means building on others' work), a good production process (even if it means outsourcing a lot of work to China), and a good marketing/sales process (even if it means making ads that lie).


February 17, 2009 9:44 AM

I want to see the other 10...


June 9, 2009 10:43 PM

@ Micah Beals

"From my experience, it's not just the processes that create good design but a culture that encourages and supports those processes... Kudos to Apple on what I assume is a culture that respects design."

Could not agree more with this comment. It's my daily struggle to work with those that deam their opinion greater then the common good. Fails every single time.

Joseph Lee

June 10, 2009 3:10 AM


Maybe you should think about a different job? Or a firm, where there's more consideration on design, and not so much the bottom line?

Hope you find something a little better.



June 10, 2009 5:55 AM

@J. Kevin Tumlinson

.....form first then function?
Nonsense. That is what gets you pretty but useless junk.
One can come up with a concept for a cool widget, but what it does is the driver, not the way it looks. Form has to come second although in a design conscious world, it is important. There is no stronger cause of buyer's remorse than a cool looking gadget that doesn't deliver on functionality. That is THE best way to lose customers for life.
Take a look at the Zune, almost any Win based phone and more besides and you will see that however pretty the body, if it doesn't do the biz, it is dead in the water.


June 13, 2009 11:08 PM

@ TD

I am also an interaction design student. Yes, I agree that Apple does not follow the processes that are often put forward in school. However, those processes are geared more towards committee design and ensuring that no design will be terrible if the processes are followed, even if the designer has little feeling for the subject. Simple rules for simple results.

All the design processes which I've seen in school have been interesting as intellectual excercises and seem practical for design within an institution or large company which want to make their product less terrible. These people want paperwork and processes, not originality, or even new twists on old concepts.

Apples strength (one of them, anyway) is that they are willing to take chances with what they put on sale. They're not betting the farm on their products, but they are willing to play with concepts and try to improve things which most people would say were already good enough. Just look at something small like the recent advances in the trackpad on their notebooks. They already had the best trackpads on the market and have done 2 large improvements since, while HP is still using a rather mediocre design very similar to what they used around 2003 (even earlier).

And someone above said that Apple pretends to give people what they want. Apple exactly does NOT pretend to do that. They try to judge what the user will NEED, not want. They are all about reducing unnecessary options anywhere that makes the product more easily usable. That's why, even lacking cut and paste, the iPhone is by far the handheld device which generates most traffic on the web. Core functionality.

I'm on my first Mac, have been a MS user since 1988, was a windows techie for a few years and switched to Mac when Vista was launched. Macs are not perfect, just severely less crappy than the competition.
As I am now studying interaction design and cognitive science I see my classmates fighting with their Win machines. They saw me and 2 others using our Macs. After working with us most of the class has switched to Mac in less than one year. The Mac users work just looked better, went faster and much fewer computer problems. When you're working at your computer all day that makes a difference.

Jamie Graham

June 22, 2009 5:04 PM

Lopp makes an interesting point - not "seven in order to make the three look good". If preparing ten ideas, it can be easy to only work hard on two or three of them - but pushing through to make all ten original will bring the chosen design to a much higher level.

Dwayne Downing

November 16, 2009 8:23 PM

Lets relate this back to home stereos. There are ones that have a very mimnial attractive design. A single volume knob, brushed metal front... they look like the should have an i-prefix. People are drawn to them because they seem to do what they want and they 'fit' with the decor. Form over function wins. (apple)

Then there are the button/switch/knob fests. They do everything... you can hook up your VCR, old record players... you have low-pass/ hi pass filters, equializers.. reverb, surround. They also have a billion inputs on the back.. you have to read and re-read the manual to get sound out of it... function over form. (PC)

Which is universally correct? Both can make music. The 'form' based stereo can't hook up to your VCR (or whatever). The 'function' based unit looks terrible and confuses the other members of the family (only you can use it).

It all rests on the user, the person shelling out money. If he/she loves to dig into the features of the stereo.. ie: the stereo itself is part of the entertainment... function wins. If he/she just wants to listen to music and is more worried about the color of the stereo rather than it hooking up to a vcr or filtering or whatever... form wins.

The is the core debate... and there is no universal 'right'.

matt garlen

November 17, 2009 11:22 AM

Dwayne Downing my friend, i think you are spot on, it depends on the machine, and what's expected of it (and who's using it). The apple way doesn't work in other product segments most of the time. I wish it did though. No doubt about it though, they have created a global design benchmark ,which is now taken as a given, its a curse more than a blessing really for the rest of us industrial designers. Its spawned a common law or set of rules of design aspiration that in most cases cannot be applied to other industries. Oh by the way I'm typing this on my macbook, so its not a criticism!

Shamima Sultana

December 29, 2009 11:00 PM

..Nice post indeed...


January 26, 2010 10:11 PM

Incredible model of work with a tough client. I think Steve Jobs must be one of those. I'll aplly it to my actual clinents. Thanks!


February 9, 2010 6:37 PM

I'd really like to know what software tools are used internally to design, simulated, and layout the Apple electronic hardware. Anyone have a clue?

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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