One cannot discuss the success of Apple – the company – as a whole without touching on its design philosophies and sensibilities. They would not have been able to have established a cult following, especially among artists and designers, if they are not able to show something solid and, dare we say, earth-shattering, in the field of design.
1. Systematic Product Development Process
Apple follows a process for product development that can only be described as logical and systematic. There is an order to everything, and that principle also applies on how it comes up with products. Considering how many of Apple’s products have become icons and are still commanding great patronage (and sales) to this day, it is obvious that this system works.
Design is done during pre-production.
Apple is particular about the design phase being during the pre-production, and not post-production. All the design details are formulated and ironed out even before it is placed into production, so it is clear that they have a clear vision on how they want the product to turn out.
This simply means that there is no trial-and-error going on here. While other manufacturers seem to perform design functions throughout the product development process, Apple strictly does everything at the beginning. This is to avoid confusions and veering away from the original vision of the product.
Apple designers are designing for themselves.
When Steve Jobs started creating products, he put himself in the shoes of the customer. He was the “user” of the Apple product that they will be creating. This is a slight shift from the usual practice of engineers and designers creating products for someone else. They are designing something that they will actually want to use, and will use, once it has been produced.
In the same way, engineers have made a habit of designing products around a certain technology that is available to them. In short, they are designing for a technology, not for the user. At Apple, they are designing a product, not because they can, but because they actually want that product and cannot live without it.
2. Substance over Form
Consumers are easily convinced to buy something that they deem to be pretty or beautiful. Style and appearance are, after all, the first things that register to the naked eye. Thus, it is the one that first gets a response. That is part of human nature. However, consumers are also becoming smarter, preferring to look beneath the surface. That is what turns buyers into loyal customers.
According to Steve Jobs, “design is how it works, not how it looks”. He was particular about how the final product would look, physically, but, more than that, the main point of contention is its functionality. Does it work? Does it deliver exactly what the user is looking for? Does it perform as it is expected to?
One of the pitfalls of new companies coming up with new products is wanting to come up with one that looks great, without really seeing if it works. On paper, it looks like the next best thing to come out in recent years, and the marketing even promises that it is so. However, it ends up falling short of expectations.
The focus of Apple design is the full integration of software and hardware, without claiming that it can do everything (and is good at it). It recognizes its shortcomings and instead focuses on what it is very good at.
For example, the iPad does not have USB connectors or external disc drives. Other laptops and notebooks do. The design team over at Apple may not have included these two features in the iPad, but it did make sure that the device performs a specific set of tasks very well, while remaining very user-friendly and intuitive.
3. Quality above all
Ask Apple users why they stick to Apple products despite the fact that there are a lot of other, newer, and certainly cheaper alternatives out there, and they will give you a lot of reasons, most of which are centered on design.
A Simple Aesthetic
As mentioned repeatedly in many discussions and analyses on the Apple design, one of its defining characteristics is simplicity. More than being flashy or eye-catching, Apple designed its products to look clean, simple and straightforward.
Visual simplicity is being practiced, and this is apparent in the design of its Apple cell phones. It look clean, the interfaces are free from clutter, and the fonts are elegant and clean as well.
Great Attention to Detail
Part of the reason why it takes a considerably long time for the design teams at Apple to come up with new products is how they pay a lot of attention to every detail of the design. In fact, many long-time Apple users even get surprised once they realize that even the tiniest details in the Apple product they are using is meant to accomplish something.
For example, in the more recent versions of the Mac laptop, the internal fan speed has been programmed to automatically slow down once the voice dictation feature has been engaged. This is so that it can hear your voice better and more clearly. For sure, this is information that is unknown by many Mac laptop users, but that is just one of the many proofs of how the creative people over at Apple are detailed about the design of their products.
Intuitiveness and user-friendliness
When it comes to understandability and ease of use, Apple successfully integrated these into its products. Apple is heavily credited for introducing the graphical user interface, where users can pretty much do everything in one place, and monitor or track their progress via that interface.
Apple created products that are easy to understand, so that new users rarely, if ever, consult user manuals or guides. Operations were made to be discoverable via menus, and everything can be recovered, in case users committed an error during operation and want to reverse them to an earlier time. In short, users were accorded control and power over the operations of the devices or products.
4. Apple designs for the future
Apple is a pioneer when it comes to design. It is known that the design team of Apple starts working on a new design two years early. That is quite a head start, considering how the competition is just catching up. So Apple introduces a new, cutting-edge design, competitors try to copy it, but by the time they are able to, Apple is already hard at work – and even more than halfway though – another breakthrough design.
Consumers would naturally want something that is advanced, which is why they would prefer to stick with Apple products instead of the more “outdated” ones.
5. Design is a continuous process
You will notice that Apple does not really invent new products frequently. Apple focuses more on reinventions or recreations, looking for the weak points of an already existing design and rectifying that, making it better.
The mp3 player has already existed when Apple created the iPod; it just came up with a better version of an mp3 player. Tablets have already been in existence when Apple came out with its own version, the iPad. Similarly, the smartphone is not an Apple creation. It’s just that Apple successfully revolutionized the concept of a smartphone when it launched its iPhone.
This only goes to show that the design team of Apple is working tirelessly to come up with a design that will make things better and easier for users. Certainly, this level of commitment is part of the reason why the company commands such fervor loyalty from Apple users.