Keeping It Simple Is Complicated

The Wall Street Journal’s John Maeda, in a dual review of “Keep It Simple” by Hartmut Esslinger and “Jony Ive” by Leander Kahney:

To Jobs, design was never just about plastic versus aluminum (though such choices were always made with great care). Apple’s approach under Jobs recognized that great design had to be flawlessly manufactured and marketed at a profit margin advantageous to Apple. That is, producing the right product required not only Mr. Ive identifying the perfect aluminum but CEO Tim Cook locking down the raw materials at a sustainable price. Though on the surface Apple appears to be dominated by the guys in black turtlenecks, what truly distinguishes the company is how integrated its efforts are—the manufacturing requirements and supply-chain logistics are included in the design process.

This is what most companies miss. The phrase “design is how it works” is often thrown around with little care as to what it entails. Design, in this functional sense, requires dedication at every step of the process, which requires production line finesse at an unparalleled level. That’s what makes simplicity complicated and hard, but it’s ultimately what makes it so rewarding for Apple, for employees and, most of all, for customers.