Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple - Essay Example

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Design Thinking Those of us on the [original] Macintosh team were really excited about what we were doing. The result was that people saw a Mac and fell in love with it… . There was an emotional connection .. . That I think came from the heart and soul of the design team. -? Bill Atkinson,l Member of Apple Macintosh Development Team It was not evident that falling in love with computers was something that made sense at the time when these were machines for data processing and automation.

Moreover, in the id-sass, when Apple entered the scene, computer equipment was typically housed in discrete locations within company headquarters and government facilities, guarded and used only by specialists. The notion of personal computers as a tool for individual work was unimaginable. Corporations and governmental agencies controlled how work functioned and, by extension, influenced the creation of tools that were to be deployed to control it. The business processes and systems that evolved were eventually captured in enterprise software, with its emphasis on automating tasks.

To Steve Jobs and the original cadre of Apple developers, however, Moreover, they reasoned, potential customers would have to fall in love with computers if they were to master the machine’s apparent complexity and spend a lot of money to do so. People would have to see how this tool would benefit them and want that benefit for themselves. Apple’s products would target people with this appeal. From the beginning, Apple addressed individual users (“the rest of us”), believing that products that were intended to be useful to people would in fact so be.

For that to happen, the level of complexity needed to be reduced dramatically. Simplicity in Design and Use Helping people “love” their equipment and the experience of using it animated-?and continues to motivate-?how Apple products were and are designed today. Cornell Radcliff, a major architect of the Mac SO X operating system (circa 1990), noted: We did the design first. We focused on what we thought people would need and want, and how they would interact with their computer. We made sure we got that right, and then we went and figured out how to achieve it technically.

In a lot of cases when we came up with a design that we knew really worked for people, we didn’t know how we were going to build it. We had a design target, and we worked with engineering to reach it. We ended up doing a lot of things that we initially thought were impossible, or would take a long time to do. It was great because we were applying a lot of creativity and ingenuity on the design side and then pushing the engineers to use the same kind of creativity and innovation to make that happen. From the beginning, Apple products were conceived of as being highly interactive. To that end, said Jonathan Vive, Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design, who spearheaded the pod’s development (late sass), “So much of what we do is worry about the smallest of details [while] I Design Thinking and Innovation at Apple 609-066 3 don’t think all the people using the product notice or care in a conscious way about every little detail, I do think in the aggregate it’s really important, and it contributes to why people like the product. 3 Worrying about the smallest detail, which includes even the packaging of Apple products, has helped realize co-founder Steve Jobs’ design sensibility: that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Distinct from organizations whose notion of “detail” is often conflated with “features,” Apple products are often noteworthy for what they do not contain. Years ago, the slot for inserting diskettes was eliminated from Mac computers (you would have to add an external device); reviewers criticized Apple for its arrogance and omission of must- have features.

Other companies soon followed Apple’s lead, however, and external devices were quickly developed to plug into ports that Apple products contained. In other words, when the smallest detail is scrutinized, it’s possible to discover what can be lived without-?and what can be developed elsewhere. Here’s how Paul Mercer, whose Pix company implemented pod’s user interface software, characterized the honeymoon: [T]he pod is very simple-minded … It really doesn’t do much other than let you navigate your music.

That tells you two things … [first] that the simplification that went into the design was very well thought through, and, second, that the capability to build it is not commoditized. The fact that nobody has been to come by, and that the design sense, to create a simple and easy-to-adopt solution, does not exist in most product development organizations worldwide. 4 This “design sense” was evident in the pod Mini, which actually reduced the amount of music that could be played but took advantage of new hard drive technology.

The mini was designed with exactly the same philosophy [as the original pod]”, explained Vive: We were trying to take advantage of and exploit the fact that it was a smaller drive and really understand the difference. We made one model taking an approach [similar to the original], using that design vocabulary and form factor, and it was Just completely wrong. Then we started to explore very different materials and approaches. We realized we could make this in aluminum.

Unlike with stainless steel, you could blast it and then anodize it-? which is a form of dyeing-?and then you could do color in an unusual way. Thus the Mini, with a quarter fewer songs that could be played yet with a mere $50 price “reduction” from the original pod-?but it came in colors! -?became, against near universal wisdom, a wildly popular product that was both an extension of the original and a unique item purchased for its own sake.

Apple’s ability to draw upon exactly the same philosophy but adapt it to new technologies and different materials was equally evident in the Anna and Shuffle, which even further reduced the amount of music that could be played, as well as the size of the product. These, too, took off. The idea was that people would want a “portfolio’ of pods-?and so they did. Moreover, an entire industry sprang up to surround the pod, with accessories, “stations,” and links to other devices.

Beyond Fashion Given the sleek appearance of pods, phones, the pad and Mac computers, and all these products’ prominence in media depictions, it’s tempting to attribute their popularity to Apple’s ability to tap into a zeitgeist-?a sense of what is popular, fashionable, trendy at the moment. But there is more to coolness than fashion.