“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there.”
— Steve Jobs
Great quote from the article Milton Glaser: We’re Always Looking, But We Never Really See this morning.
There’s no such thing as a creative type. As if creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb. It’s about taking an idea in your head, and transforming that idea into something real. And that’s always going to be a long and difficult process. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel like work.
Kandace and I finally got around to seeing this movie last night. It was an inspiration, but like many stories I’ve read recently, it was also a reminder of the consequences of working as obsessively as possible.
There was a lot of meditation on the concept of “taste” in the movie, and I particularly liked this quote from Jiro himself.
If you don’t have good taste, you can’t make good food.
You can’t put it more simply.
I’ve heard many stories about Steve Jobs giving advice to other business executives, but in light of Yahoo!’s slow decline, I thought this passage from Inside Apple was particularly insightful. His advice to Yahoo!:
“Just pick one thing you can do that’s great. We knew it was the Mac.”
Jobs then treated Yang and his executives to some Apple-style honesty. “Yahoo! seems interesting,” he said. “Yahoo! can be anything you want. Seriously. You have talented people and more money than you could possibly need,” he continued. “I can’t figure it out, though, if you’re a content company or a technology company. Just pick one. I know which I’d pick.” Said a former Yahoo! executive who was in the room: “It was humiliating. We knew he was right. But we also knew we were incapable of choosing.”
It is impossible for a brand to be all things to all people. Indeed, the more a brand tries to appeal to everyone, the more a brand loses what makes it distinct; in an effort to broaden its appeal, a brand becomes more and more general.
Breakthrough Marketing Plans by Tim Calkins, page 52
There are plenty of gems in Water Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, but in particular I love the stories from the days when they were making the Macintosh. Andy Hertzfeld and Bud Tribble’s stories inspire this passage:
[Jobs] once took the team to see an exhibit of Tiffany glass at the Metropolitan Museum in Manhattan because he believed they could learn from Louis Tiffany’s example of creating great art that could be mass-produced.
Or, has Hertzfeld said, “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.”
The Pantone company, which Apple used to specify colors for its plastic, had more than two thousand shades of beige. “None of them were good enough for Steve,” [Mike] Scott marveled. “He wanted to create a different shade, and I had to stop him.”
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson, Chapter 6
Being a professional is doing the things you love to do on the days you don’t feel like doing them.
John Gruber’s piece The Chair sums up the approach Apple took earlier this week with their iPad keynote announcement quite nicely.
But there are other things any competitor could copy, easily, but seemingly don’t even understand that they should, because such things aren’t technical. Take that chair. The on-stage demos of the iPad aren’t conducted at a table or a lectern. They’re conducted sitting in an armchair. That conveys something about the feel of the iPad before its screen is even turned on. Comfortable, emotional, simple, elegant. How it feels is the entirety of the iPad’s appeal.
Couldn’t agree more. We don’t even know how much memory this thing has yet, and we’re not really supposed to care. That’s beside the point.
Dan Benjamin is on a roll with the 5by5 podcasts. They’re a constant source of entertainment, education, and inspiration around the studio.
His chat with Mike Monteiro last week particularly caught our attention. Mike is the co-founder of Mule Design and a very smart fellow. About 35 minutes into the episode, Dan asks about designers who sit front of Photoshop (or Illustrator, or a text editor, or whatever) all day – what advice he would offer to those people.
I would tell those people they’re not designers. Designers sell their work. Designers get up in front of people and explain why they’ve made the decisions they made, and if you can’t do that, you can’t call yourself a designer. At least, not to me.
Strong words indeed. This struck a chord with us, and we were thinking about it a lot last weekend. Dan goes on to ask “Well, what are they then?”
Doesn’t matter. They’re not designers, they’re nothing that I’m interested in.
Mike’s point is that you can’t just spend a day or two working on a pretty Photoshop mockup, hand it off to someone else, and consider your job done. You have to stand up in front of people, you have to state your case, you have to defend your decisions. It’s not enough to sit at a desk working on a project all day. The real learning, the real growth, the real lessons come from looking your client in the eye and convincing them that you’ve made the right decisions and come up with the best design for them.
Strong words, and good lessons. If you’re a web designer and you don’t listen to Dan’s podcasts, shame on you! Go listen to them right now.