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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The first rule of design…there is no design

I was reading a story about how Apple's SVP of Design Jony Ive is rumored to be leaving. He's not a household name the way that Steve Jobs is, but many believe that he's been as critical to Apples success as anyone. He was the designer of the candy colored iMac computers that were the first big hit of the second iteration of Steve Jobs' Apple, and has had a hand in the design of their entire portfolio of products since then.

He has an elegant approach to design which he outlines in the documentary Objectified which profiles several prominent personalities in the world of industrial design.

The core of his approach in his own words is simplicity. Not simplicity for the sake of simplicity or to be a minimalist. He states that his main role as a designer is to get design out of the way. A good design isn't based on arbitrary shapes; good design should feel as though it hasn't been designed at all. It should feel natural and intuitive. An example of this in his work is Apple's exceptional discipline in not including unnecessary design elements in their products. Rarely does Apple add additional lights or buttons to their products unless they serve a clear functional purpose, and in some cases they even go so far as to remove buttons that are considered standard because ultimately they aren't necessary (the track pads on their Macbooks are an example of this).

I think there is a lesson to be learned as a product marketing person from this simplicity. Focus on the customer problem(s) you solve. Don't agonize over the hurdles that your engineers had to overcome to create a solution. Nobody really cares about that; they just want to know their problem can be solved, or in some cases they want to better understand the problem itself. Having potential customers read about patent pending technology, years of laborious development effort, and what every line of code does has little impact on how they use the product.

How the product helps them and the outcomes from using them is something that can universally resonate.

After all the first rule of design… there is no design.


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