from Online Extra: Commentary: Apple’s Blueprint for Genius “Designed in Cupertino.” The words are printed in such small […]

from Online Extra: Commentary: Apple’s Blueprint for Genius

“Designed in Cupertino.”

The words are printed in such small type on the back of Apple’s (AAPL ) tiny new iPod Shuffle MP3 player that you have to squint to read them. But they speak volumes about why Apple is standing so far out from the crowd these days. At a time when rivals are outsourcing as much design as possible to cut costs, Apple remains at its core a product company — one that would never give up control of how those products are created.

At first I recoiled: I can’t say american design is inherently superior. But that’s not the point… keeping design close to home is.

Even more telling is this quote

“I’ve been thinking hard about the Apple product-development process since I left,” says design guru Donald Norman, co-founder the design consultants Nielsen Norman Group, who left Apple in 1997. “If you follow my [guidelines], it will guarantee good design. But Steve Jobs doesn’t want good design. He wants great design, and my method will never give you that. That takes a rare leader, who can bring both the cohesion and commitment and style.

It’s not usability that makes great design but a complete approach to the product that spans approaches as well as components. from business strategy to physical design, from software to plastics, the gestault of th product is the secret– and it’s a secret most companies simply aren’t willing to emulate. Outsourcing, waterfall development, overfunding a single approach — anything that piecemeals the design process weakens it.


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  1. 1

    That’s an awesome quote from Norman. I think it says a lot that he self-indicts his process: failure is always good. I wonder if his failure stems from having “guidelines” where Apple merely has “customer need,” design’s driven *by* the user and not merely *for* the user.

  2. 2

    I’ve always respected Norman, for sensible opinions like the one you quoted. (He had a good one once, about leaving academia and coming to work for Apple, wherein he realized that product design is hard work, much harder than criticism of bad design. I love Don.

  3. 3
    Brett Lider

    Yes, Steve Jobs deserves a lot of credit for what he has done at Apple, but is he building a sustainable company, or even just sustainable great design? Judging from the people I have spoken to over there, probably not.

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