Home > Apple > Design For Yourself, Not For Your Customer?

Design For Yourself, Not For Your Customer?

On August 24, 2011, Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of Apple Inc. Whether or not you like his products, it’s hard not to be fascinated by the black turtleneck-wearing visionary. Over the course of his career, Jobs has said many insightful and profound statements about technology, PCs, business, the future, and life in general. One interesting perspective he had was around design.

“We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.” (source here)

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” (source here)

”It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” (source here)

As one trained to cater to the customer, I’ve always emphasized the importance of user testing and focus groups. Perhaps a bit too much at times. Naturally, I was a bit surprised to learn of Jobs’ perspective.

But I couldn’t help but be a little inspired, because Jobs is not talking about ignoring your customers; he’s talking about having a certain level of passion and conviction in what you do. I became a little introspective, asking myself questions like:

1) Do I believe in my work?

2) Am I emotionally invested in my work?

3) Do I want to innovate?

4) Do I want the product to look good?

5) Do I want to surprise my customers?

6) Do I take shortcuts?

I think Steve Jobs’ attitude can translate to government. It’s about going beyond the minimal requirements and putting out something you’re passionate about. You don’t have to change the world to make a difference. Just put forth your best effort, think outside the box a little, and deliver the best product you can with the resources you have. Don’t just do things for the sake of doing things; do it because you believe it adds value to your customers.

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  1. Laura
    September 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

    I’ve found over the years (with few exceptions) that Jobs is right on the money. The majority of my development over the past several years has been mainly utilities to help me with my (former) job. What I found just before leaving is that my coworkers (who would be my customers in this case) loved the programs I had developed – even though I had no one else in mind when I designed them. But I built something I would be willing to buy in order to make life easier. These days I find myself desiging utilities for various staff members but only because I showed them something that was possible. Again like Jobs said, people don’t always know what they want or need until you show them. (That could be a whole other topic on its own).

    • Jon Lee
      September 8, 2011 at 10:23 am

      Hi Laura, yes, I think Jobs was right on the money. If he allowed focus groups to design his products, the Macs would probably look and operate a lot like PCs.

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