The Guts of a New Machine

Came across this again while digging through the DF archives. Rob Walker profiles the then-two-year-old iPod for the Times:

A handful of familiar cliches have made the rounds to explain this – it’s about ease of use, it’s about Apple’s great sense of design. But what does that really mean? “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. “People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

(Emphasis mine.)

This idea has, I think, taken root since then, and a respect for the relationship between usability, readability, and visual character on the web in particular has really grown. And yet, some companies seem to continue to try to “copy Apple” in all the wrong ways, drawing the wrong inferences, and learning the wrong lessons.

Think about what you’re making, respect the user and the reader, and make informed decisions along the way to the best of your ability. Setting everything minimally against a white background is not the great lesson of Apple’s success. The takeaway is to place an emphasis on the user in the design process and not to underestimate the value of quality.