Four design lessons from the Steve Jobs era

Now that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO, technology experts are analyzing his design legacy. Their conclusions? His most powerful design strategies don't just involve making beautiful objects.
Written by Reena Jana, Contributor on

As Apple officially announced on August 24, Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO. (He will stay on as Chairman of the Board). As news spread and the letter of resignation from Jobs was posted online, so too have analyses of what will define Jobs' design legacy.

Here are four design lessons that can be learned from Steve Jobs' tenure as CEO of Apple, culled from some of the first post-resignation commentaries by journalists and thinkers who cover Apple in the context of design and its relationship to both innovation and profit. What's surprising, delightful, and practical (three adjectives that can be used for Apple's products themselves) about these tips is that they might not be obvious bits of product-design wisdom. They suggest that for Jobs, the beauty of creating Apple's products and services was about much more than engineering breakthrough software or designing sleek hardware.

The formula for successful design? Don't just focus on developing new tech; also pay attention to entertainment trends. "[Steve Jobs'] design decisions...were shaped by his understanding of both technology and popular culture," as Steve Lohr wrote in The New York Times.

Take a contradictory approach to product design--in other words, try to be wildly imaginative and take grand risks while always staying realistic. "The lesson the world should take from Apple is that a company needs to become multi-dimensional. It needs to mix the core business with the disruptive innovation. It needs to combine the intellectual with the artistic. It needs to maintain within it the rational and the lunatic," as Harvard Business Review blogger Horace Dediu wrote.

Design not only great products, but also great marketing presentations of these products. As Wall Street Journal reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane wrote, "Mr. Jobs--widely known for his mercurial, demanding management style--drove his company relentlessly to make products that consumers lusted for, unveiling them in heavily rehearsed events that earned him a reputation as high-tech's greatest showman."

Ultimately, excellent design isn't about creating beautiful aesthetics; it's about creating memorable experiences. "The success of Apple, and the design legacy of Steve Jobs, is [his] laser-like focus on creating great consumer experiences," as senior writer Jay Greene wrote on CNET.

Photo: Matt Buchanan/Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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