Orchestrating A Product

Orchestrating A Product

Lesson Learned from Steve Jobs


Hi! I just completed the biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson and surely this essay will going to tell you about him. Thy Steve Jobs himself and how he did artwork to every single things he touched. I beg you to read the whole book if you are a truly designer and want to convince that “the walking design” is really alive.

About Steve

Despite of the title he holds, CEO, Co-Founder, you name it, he is a designer. From earliest Apple, to NeXT, to Pixar, to Toy Story, he is the mind behind the brilliant design. Isaacson wrote that Jobs was the one who integrated Wozniak’s boards into a friendly package, from the power supply to the sleek case. He also created the company that sprang up around Wozniak’s machines. Regis McKenna, Apple first copywriter told that “Woz designed a great machine, but it would be sitting in hobby shops today were it not for Steve Jobs”.

One real case we might learn from earlier baby company Pixar. Jobs met the founder right after Apple resignation and discovered the need of Pixar to be transformed. He did its image computer and rendering software, never been before any entertainment corp had it. The Jobs coming brought Pixar to be the combination of artistic creativity and technological geekiness. “Silicon Valley folks don’t really respect Hollywood creative types, and the Hollywood folks think that tech folks are people you hire and never have to meet. Pixar was one place where both cultures were respected”.

Question is, how? How this man theatering a product?

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How to Orchestrating a product

Raised by a craftman, Jobs learned the two most influential values in his design. First, he learned how things work. He said, “I thought my dad’s sense of design was pretty good, because he knew how to build anything. If we needed a cabinet, he would build it. When he built our fence, he gave me a hammer so I could work with him”. Later on, when Jobs cajoled a designer in Apple because of the flowering aspect in Macintosh, he told that designer, “Surely, design is about how things work”.

His logical thinking also proves him in every demand of product which people or investor wish to Apple. He would collect designer to brainstorm how to make a clear imperative experience to the user.

The birth of iTunes Store was the real case we might underline how Jobs bring the table on. At that time, the music industry faced piracies and legal sales of CDs were down 9% in 2002. Besides, the iPod and iTunes software need refreshments so that consumer could catch the newest songs. Apple get Warner Music Studio to collaborate and made iTunes Store. Isaacson records on how shock Bill Gates was on that occasion.

Jobs put problem solving into product. The sense of how-things-works-perks was beneficial to Apple compared to others. Apple could differentiate its product not only to PC/computer stuff, but also to music and to people behavior. This also makes Apple innovative and always be the pioneer in each product.

Second, he learned how to drive for perfection in every part of his product, even the part of unseen. When Apple II was on board, Jobs rejected the initial design because the lines were not straight enough. This passion for perfection led him to indulge his instinct to control. Most hacker and hobbyists liked to customize, modify, and jack various things into their computer, and to Jobs, this was a threat to a seamless end-to-end user experience.

Isaacson wrote that one of the most extreme and telling implementations of that philosophy came when he scrutinized the printed circuit board that would hold the chips and other components deep inside the Macintosh. No consumer would ever see it, but Jobs began critiquing it, “That part’s really pretty, but look at the memory chips. That’s ugly. The lines are too close together”.

When Apple had Mike Markkula (the first chief marketing), Jobs told that Mike really took him under his wing. Mike was a father figure to him and of course he learned a lot too (PS. he always hired people that smarter than himself). Mike taught him on customer obsession.

Mike wrote “The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points according to customer obsession. First was empathy, an intimate connection with the feeling of the customer. The case of empathy came up in Macintosh operating system. One day, Jobs met his engineer and complained that Macintosh was taking too long to boot up. The engineer started to explain, but Jobs cut him off, “If it could save a person’s life, would you find a way to shave ten seconds off the boot time? If there were five million people using the Mac, and it took ten seconds extra to turn it on every day, that added up to three hundred million or so hours per year that people would save, which was equivalent to at least one hundred lifetimes saved per year”. The brilliant Job’s enlightenment made an engineer impressed.

The second was focus. “In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities”. This case was exampled in Apple annual meeting when Jobs just came back to the empire after his resignation. At that time, Jobs was upset to know the fall of Apple’s growth. Seeing the data, he shouted, “Tons of products, most of them crap, done by deluded teams. Apple had a dozen versions of the Macintosh, each with different confusing number, ranging from 1400 to 9600. I couldn’t figure out, which ones do I tell my friends to buy?”. The statement next led to company product focus for only four great products and this ability saved Apple’s fall.

The third was impute. “People DO judge a book by its cover. We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software. But if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod. If we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities”, Mike said. This requirement was totally answered by Jobs in fact, “When you open the box of an iPhone or iPad, we want that tactile experience to set the tone for how you perceive the product. Mike taught me that”.

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One Apple member told that the packaging of Macintosh will be supposed to be thrown in the trash as soon as the consumer opened it, but Jobs steadily obsessed by how it looked. For him, each detail was essential to making the Macintosh amazing.

So those three mantras on customer obsession led Jobs to crazily focus on end-to-end product. His possessive in creating product make him really detail from product design to marketing, to advertising, even to theater-y product pitching. Never been before a tech product unveiled in the manner of one-man show up with a chorus of faithful song “Hallelujah” like the greatest showman. Apple Senior stated that Jobs thought of himself as an artist, and he encouraged the design team to think that way too. The goal was never to beat the competition or to make a lot of money. It was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater.

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“To be honest, we didn’t know what it meant for a computer to be ‘friendly’ until Steve told us”, one real lesson came up to Apple’s employee. This theater-y product next completed by the Apple full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal with the headline, “Welcome, IBM. Seriously”. As written by Isaacson, it cleverly positioned the upcoming computer battle as a two-way contest between the spunky and rebellious Apple and the establishment of Goliath IBM.

“What we’re trying to do is not highfalutin. We’re trying to get back to the basics of great products, great marketing, and great distribution. Apple has drifted away from doing the basics really well”. That’s what Steve Jobs said.

So there are several bullets to be proven if you need to imitate how Apple touches every single product. First, you got to logically understand how things work, definitely. Second, work like a craft-man so that you make sure a product is neat even nobody would going to see it. Third, understand what customer wants. It is reached by empathy, focus and impute.

Now, have you ready to turn the theater on?