Design First, Engineer Second.
A lot of the time folks write off Apple customers as simply being MacTards, fans that are so pre-occupied with Apple and less about the products they make. In part that can be true, I’ve meet some extreme ignorant fans, but in general that’s not true at all.
I’ve meet a lot of fans of Apple who can’t stand the company, but embrace the products they design. I’ve asked many creative souls who in Apple they worship the most, Steve Jobs isn’t on the list as much as Jonathan Ive is. It’s interesting to note this, as competition isn’t important as much as why folks CHOOSE to compete. I’m a fan of Jonathan’s work, as what i’ve read about him is that he seems preoccupied with design first, competition / politics last – seems healthy in a positive way?
Industrial Design is fast becoming the differentiator in today’s technology markets; it’s not just about the magic of software it’s also about how the software experience is presented outside the binary owned domain. Everything from the packaging through to the device it’s housed in all play a collective role. Short change one component to this formula, the rest can suffer.
It’s not easy either, if you look at the first generation of iPods compared to today’s iPhone, there is a radical change in not just ergonomics but visual design inside the software. Evolution is something that you have to fight your way through when it comes to products, it’s not about V1 or V2, but often V3 can be your sweet spot. I like to call this the “Goldie Locks” effect in that as a child I was told the story of “Goldie Locks & the Three Bears”. Basically by her 3rd attempt at eating the porridge, it was “just right”. Its amazing how often this formula seems to happen not just in Microsoft but all brands really.
I look at the Zune from where it’s come to where it’s heading and I’m at peace with it. I feel our Zune team get design, the shame here is it’s not available outside the U.S (something I hope will change).
I look at the XBOX Team and Project NATAL and it again, I’m at peace with it all as they are looking to focus on the experience and less on the technology per say – games are funny incubation of innovation at times.
I look at the next version of Office and am amazed at how clean it’s fast becoming. Same with Windows 7.
The point is this; we have become used to judging “new” from how it looks not so much how it acts. If we see a new product come out that’s based off the old, it’s main focus is on how it looks and less what it does new – that comes later and is of equal importance.
We do judge a book by its cover, and as such we really need to tackle the design first and focus on engineering second. If you target where you want to head and then focus on how you get there, at least your goal is more weighted towards innovation and less on limitation.
I think Apple has taught Microsoft a valuable lesson in the past 3 years; it’s a healthy amount of competition as well. Adobe is also teaching Microsoft valuable lessons as well.
We are a company that has had a lot of engineering culture ingrained into our DNA – yet in the past 3-4 years I’ve seen the design discussion change from being this quiet blip on the radar to being a more focal point in discussion.
I’m not a fan of the the new Bing logo, it just irritates me at how the proportion is off, yet I’ve seen a healthy debate internally on the subject that has made me extremely proud of how Microsoft is changing its approach to design. I’m not happy with the outcome, but will happily accept this given the result was we approached a conversation differently to what I would of ever thought years ago. In the end I concede that Bing will be measured by how well it helps folks search not so much on what the brand looks like.
Engineering only gives you so much of a head start, as it can usually be matched, design however is something that if you copy becomes obvious as well the initial moment had already passed.
Design can interrupt you in a positive way. Its downside is that it’s not open to “rinse & repeat” formulas.
It’s better outlined here: