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Creative Selection: Inside Apples Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs


This is the eal deal written by An Insider I Was Also There During insider I was also there during time This book accurately describes Apple s software engineering during the second Steve Jobs era For hardware engineering ead Adam s Inside AppleThe vivid descriptions in the Jobs era For hardware engineering ead Adam Lashinsky s AppleThe vivid descriptions in the are better than the analyses I would stress that the principles and practices described by the author were completely unwritten and unnamed as the author says So if you e trying to be like Apple by eading a book you e doing it wrong If you want to be like Apple ditch the business books and startup blogs do you think Steve Jobs ead those things and eally focus on the product There s nothing in the book about MVP Agile Scrum AB testing TDD etc Apple eally didn t work like that The key is what the author calls creative selection demoingdogfoodingiteratingconverging the product with tight loops of communication with minimal teams enforced by secrecyOne thing that occurred to me is that the examples given and generally in Apple s history are ones where the product definitions were elatively well formed and concrete up front leaving plenty of oom for technical innovation but little oom for exploration and business validation Before getting to that concrete vision the Apple way isn t applicable I was excited about diving in this weekend into Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda a new book providing a detailed look inside the design process at Apple And Creative Selection did not disappoint While much has been written about Steve Jobs and Apple I found Creative Selection particularly insightful because it provided a vignette into the development of the first iPhone and in particular one of it s most critical features the keyboard from the perspective of Ken Kocienda the software engineer ultimately esponsible for developing it Ken goes through the many challenges and subseuent iterations to address those challenges with building the first keyboard to be presented only on a glass display And in doing so it showcased how Apple s design and development process was different from traditional Silicon Valley companies in subtle yet incredibly important waysKen distills the Apple development approach that ultimately made them successful to seven elements inspiration collaboration craft diligence decisiveness taste and empathy And he walks through what each of these elements means to him with detailed stories exemplifying eachBut I wanted to share some personal observations I took away from the book on how Apple built products in such a fundamentally different wayKen describes the process by which they would prepare product demos for their own team and then for various leaders use that demo as the primary avenue for feedback and then continue to iterate to the next demo followed by ounds of demo feedback and so on He calls this process creative selection While at the surface this may sound like a typical product evie. WALL STREET JOURNAL BESTSELLER An insiders account of Apples creative process during the golden years of Steve JobsHundreds of millions of people use Apple products every day; several thousand work on Apples campus in Cupertino California; but only a handful sit at the drawing board Creative Selection ecounts the life of one of the few who worked behind the scenes a highly espected software engineer who worked in the final years of the Steve Jobs erathe Golden Age of Apple Ken Kocienda offers an inside look at Apples creative process For fifteen ye. W process that many companies have there Was So Much That Was so much that was about itFirst demos were done early and often even at the prototype stage These were not just eviews at the end of the process to get final approval but instead they were done to show early progress determine viability of the project and make fundamental design decisions The goal was to produce an initial prototype to demo as uickly as possible and then continually efine the prototype through subseuent feedback sessions These demo sessions with senior as uickly as possible and then continually efine the prototype through subseuent feedback sessions These demo sessions with senior happened on a weekly basis not months apartAnd in contrast to so many classic eviews where leaders are largely concerned with ensuring projects are on time that there are no unaddressed bottlenecks and that the team is executing on the ight strategy leaders at Apple in fact played the ole of arbiters of taste Ken defines taste as developing a efined sense of judgment and finding the balance that produces a pleasing and integrated whole And in these eviews leaders would often be making calls on the spot on design decisions for the product Ken etells the story of many eviews with Scott Forstall who was head of iPhone software and Steve Jobs himself who would make critical decisions to emove UI elements to pick amongst a few design directions that the team was presenting and to cancel efforts entirely all based on the context and feedback they got from the presenting team their own first hand experience with the demo and their ultimate sense of taste This feedback was highly espected by the team and didn t feel like classic executive swoop
because of how deeply involved senior leaders were on a weekly basis with engaging in depth with the product during these demosThe nature of these meetings also looked so different from traditional exec meeting topics with discussions around market opportunity competitors esourcing etc They were instead fundamentally about the design and user experience And each leader would play with the product themselves just as a user would to eally connect with the product experienceEually important to their process was extreme product dogfooding which they called living on the product They understood that even after making initial product decisions in these demo eviews they needed to continue to experience the product on a daily basis to ensure the experience was actually satisfying And in doing so they would continually come up with feedback from amongst the team who was living on the product and incorporate that feedback into the product Ken shares how each change he made to the keyboard auto correction capabilities would be olled out to the small team of iPhone software engineers and how the feedback directly from those individuals shaped his future iterations I do egularly see a disconnect in product uality emerge when the product design and engineering teams aren t using their own product on a dai. Ars he was on the ground floor of the company as a specialist directly esponsible for experimenting with novel user interface concepts and writing powerful easy to use software for products including the iPhone the iPad and the Safari web browser His stories explain the symbiotic elationship between software and product development for those who have never dreamed of programming a computer and eveal what it was like to work on the cutting edge of technology at one of the worlds most admired companiesKocienda shares moments of struggle and success Ly basisAnd finally the teams tasked with owning critical software components were very small empowered teams of individuals Each component would have a DRI a directly esponsible individual who was ultimately on the line for producing that component And there was a fundamental belief that small teams did the best work because they were empowered to do so Ken was the DRI for the iPhone keyboard and worked directly and closely with an associated designer Glaringly absent from these teams were in fact product managers The esponsibility instead was divided amongst the engineers designers a program manager for project management support and the senior leader By empowering these very small teams they had the ability and motivation to do their very best workI would encourage you to check out the book for yourself as it was a fascinating glimpse into the design process of one of the world s most innovative product companies Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda I pre ordered this book based on some extremely positive eviews but I found it to be something of
disappointment Whatever Mr Kocienda s skills his prose style is lifeless and flat Given that he is describing one of the most significant technology developments of the last ten or so years his account lacks excitement and oddly passion In describing the work he did at Apple and the way her perceives the company to work he writes as a programmer ather than a story teller Along the way he includes ather jarring links to the work of people like Kant and Darwin and sometimes the value of these eferences is so limited as to encourage the belief that they have been added to give some artificial weight to the author s own text This faux intellectualism also leads to some incredibly clumsy phrasing For example he talks epeatedly about a efined like esponse a combination of words the meaning of which is only made less clear by the inclusion of the hyphen As another example he states that The past is a source of the timeless and enduring which sounds excellent ight up to the point that you try to understand what he means Ultimately there are a few interesting insights that the book offers into the way that Apple works but these are are enough not to edeem it An insight into the meticulous detail of developing great software while ecognising the human element of interactionTyping this on an iPad keyboard brings a tangible link to the material in the book Excellent This book appears like a journal ecounting to the material in the book Excellent This book appears like a journal ecounting development of some projects at Apple ather than an insightful book about how to best approach product design design processes It elies too much on self indulging memory walk that are often void of true learning Feels like the author wanted to emember the fond year at Apple developing some of its software leaving us with some very unsurprising unsophisticated learning from how things are actually happening. Risis and collaboration illuminating each with lessons learned over his Apple career He introduces the essential elements of innovationinspiration collaboration craft diligence decisiveness taste and empathyand uses these as a lens through which to understand productive work cultureAn insiders tale of creativity and innovation at Apple Creative Selection shows eaders how a small group of people developed an evolutionary design model and how they used this methodology to make groundbreaking and intuitive software which countless millions use every day. ,