Design in tech

A few interesting notes about design I read in John Sculley’s recent interview about Steve Jobs and Apple.

An anecdotal story, a friend of mine was at meetings at Apple and Microsoft on the same day and this was in the last year, so this was recently. He went into the Apple meeting (he’s a vendor for Apple) and when he went into the meeting at Apple as soon as the designers walked in the room, everyone stopped talking because the designers are the most respected people in the organization. Everyone knows the designers speak for Steve because they have direct reporting to him. It is only at Apple where design reports directly to the CEO.

Later in the day he was at Microsoft. When he went into the Microsoft meeting, everybody was talking and then the meeting starts and no designers ever walk into the room. All the technical people are sitting there trying to add their ideas of what ought to be in the design. That’s a recipe for disaster.

While not surprising for anyone that knows Apple well, still notable in the industry. The other note I thought was interesting was around developers…

Engineers are far more important than managers at Apple — and designers are at the top of the hierarchy. Even when you look at software, the best designers like Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, Steve Capps, were called software designers, not software engineers because they were designing in software. It wasn’t just that their code worked. It had to be beautiful code. People would go in and admire it. It’s like a writer. People would look at someone’s style. They would look at their code writing style and they were considered just beautiful geniuses at the way they wrote code or the way they designed hardware.

Again, even with engineering driven companies, I rarely hear a focus on writing beautiful code. I think that’s as cool as building great customer facing product.

The whole interview is definitely worth a read for those interested in management and product development.

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2 Comments on “Design in tech”

  1. Jana says:

    Appreciated post!

  2. ray says:

    My favorite part is how John Sculley didn’t understand anything about computers… and still didn’t when he left as CEO. I’ve seen more than a few execs in tech (or tech-driven brick and mortars) who were functionally computer illiterate. It was always bad news.


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