The Lie Of Design

May 15, 2021

You can’t create the perfect design.
You can only design something perfect for your brand.

People don’t just want to copy Apple’s designs–people want to copy how Apple designs. But the genius of Steve Jobs was not design.

Design was the result, not the product.

Consumers may have bought an iPhone because of its beautiful design…but that’s not why they bought into the Church of Mac. That’s not why they literally branded themselves with Apple’s logo on their skin. Steve Jobs didn’t develop a cult following because of superior design.

His genius was finding the identity of his brand…and then making everything–everything, from apps to tech to stores–emote that identity.

Like a dog whistle, he found a frequency only certain people could hear. It was a sound they’d heard sporadically throughout their lives…but there was too much interference. Too much noise.

Steve heard that frequency. He sought it. He obsessed over it.
Apple was a means to an end: the space to emit that pure, clean sound.

No static. No white noise. No interference.

That sound and absolutely nothing else.

Design was a means to an end: the way to emit that pure, clean sound.

The more clearly, the more strongly these certain people heard that call, the more entranced they became. Apple filled a void they didn’t even know existed.

Good design isn’t about design.
It’s about an experience. An emotion.
Good design is about finding new ways to deliver an emotion that resonates.
Good branding is being obsessed with resonating that emotion as purely, as cleanly as you can.
Nothing else.

Apple emotes delightful simplicity.

That’s not what Steve called it. Those aren’t the words he used. But that’s what he felt. That was his obsession. He infused the entire company with it.

Everything–everything–came down to delightful simplicity.

Apple Pay. Unboxing. Store displays. Its website. The ecosystem of Apple products.

Just different ways to transmit one frequency, to elicit one emotion.

That was the genius of Jobs.