Four months ago, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jonathan Ive, resumed direct management of Apple’s design teams after a two-year hiatus. Apple has managed to keep details about his compensation heavily under wraps, but it’s certainly in the millions. And he’s earning every penny of it.
Having designed the original iPod, iPad, and iPhone, he is perhaps the most famous living designer of consumer products. His career has just been one hit after another.
I mention this because the principles that guide his designs aren’t only for designers of consumer products, they are for any business leader who wants to improve his or her company. You can use his philosophy of design as a framework from which to improve your own business.
Here’s how he described his design philosophy to the London Evening Standard: “Our goal is simple objects,” he said. “Objects that you can’t imagine any other way.”
If you’ve ever bought an Apple product, you’ll know exactly what he means. You encounter that simplicity of design before you even interact with the product itself. Whereas many consumer products have terrible packaging (I recently had to bust out wire cutters to open a toy for my son. It literally took me ten minutes and I was fuming at the manufacturer every minute along the way), the iPhone’s packaging is beautiful in its simplicity. The delivery box is perfectly sized to enclose the iPhone box. And when you open the inside box, the sleeve pulls back to dramatically reveal the phone. Power on your device and you’ll discover that it comes pre-charged and pre-set to your iCloud account.
So simple. So intuitive. Don’t you wish your products and services were like that?
In this article, I’m going to share four simple steps to help you apply Jonathan Ive’s philosophy of simple design to your own products,services, and even your internal processes within your company.
Step #1: Start Keeping a Design Journal
I want you to keep a “Design Journal” to record all of the things that you love and all of the things that you hate about the products and services that you interact with — from PTA meetings to grocery stores to online shopping and beyond.
And be sure to stick to what your passionate about — what you love and what you hate. For the time being you can simply ignore those things that you feel lukewarm about. I want you to pay attention to the two sides of your extremes – this is where you’ll find the richest design lessons.
I’ll give you a few examples from my own journal. I travel quite often (so should you by the way) so my journal has a lot of entries from my travels.
Here’s something I hate: At my small town airport, there are two security lines — one for TSA Pre and one for everyone else. But living in Jackson, Wyoming it is common for the Pre side of the line, with it’s it’s six or seven security employees to handle TSA Pre exclusively, to be completely empty, while the other side for “non Pre” to be packed. We’ll just get Pre you say? Can’t do your interview in Jackson, have to do it at a major airport. Schedule an appointment when traveling to do it during a layover? Well they have a backlog months long. In fact, my Pre paperwork expired in the year I kept trying to get an appointment. A totally broken process.
You know what else I hate? United’s website. It takes me about 25 minutes to buy tickets from United. I can buy a ticket from other third party travel websites in a third of that time.
But you know what I love? Clearly-marked routes between airport terminals and car-rental lots, with lots of signs to breadcrumb the way. And airlines that post the current boarding zone up on a monitor so that you don’t have to ask the other clueless people gathering to board.
By journaling about experiences like these, you can train yourself to notice good design and spot opportunities for improvement.
Step #2: Journal About Your Own Industry
Now consider your own industry from the perspective of a client. Ask yourself what a client would love and hate about your industry in general.
To be clear, you’re not only journaling about your own business at this stage. You should be thinking about your competitors too. What do customers love and hate about the products and services in your industry?
From the point of view of the client, you might love that you can trust some of the service providers to just do the work for you. But you might hate that service providers in your industry take weeks to follow up.
When you spot what people in your industry love or hate, you’ll gain great insights that you can use to radically improve the value you offer your market.
Step #3: Journal About Your Own Business
Now ask yourself: If I were a client of my business, what would I love and hate about our own products and services?
For example, you might love how easy your product is to use, but you might hate the packaging. Or, for a repair service, you might love the quality of the work, but hate the mess that the repair team leaves behind. Again, it’s what you spot at the extremes that offers the greatest gold for you to mine from your design journal.
Step #4: Journal About Solutions
Now that you’ve identified things that clients might hate about your products and services, ask yourself, What am I going to do about it?
Think back to Jonathan Ive’s goal — to build simple objects that you can’t imagine any other way. How can you make your products and services simple — so that they just work? How can you fix the things that drive people crazy?
I discovered this process while working on my own business. My company, Maui Mastermind, is one of the premier business coaching companies in the world. We’re really good at what we do.
But several years ago, a former client approached me during a keynote I was giving at his industry conference with some feedback. He said that he loved our approach and that he still used our tools and methodology to run his business. But he told me that there were two things that pushed him away from our business after only a year in our program.The first frustration was that his coach wasn’t a good personality match for him; his second frustration was that nobody other than his coach ever asked him for feedback. He owned that he could have called or emailed our office to talk with someone other than his coach, but it was poor design on our part not to proactively ask him and build in feedback loops outside of his direct coach. I agreed. While it was painful to hear how we blew it with him, it was incredibly important to spot ways to improve the design of our core coaching service, which we did.
Since then, we’ve created the new position in the company called Client Success Manager and this person’s role is to be a second point of contact with our company independent from the coach, and he or she checks in quarterly with our clients by phone, and more often via email. This way we can regularly talk with our coaching clients to find out what’s going well and what we can do to create even more value. On the rare occasion that a client doesn’t connect with their coach, we can learn about that problem and solve it immediately.
By thinking carefully about how we could fix the things in our business that people hated, not only did we neutralize those negatives, but we actually managed to turn those negatives into positives. That Client Success Manager role has helped us form deeper relationships with our clients than we ever had before — relationships that transcend the coach-client dynamic.
Now it’s your turn. By following these four steps, you can learn to find the rough edges in your business and sand them down. You’ll be able to identify how you’ve let down or lost clients in the past and how you can transform those negative into positives moving forward.
It’s that kind of analysis that has earned Jonathan Ive his multi-million dollar salary. His genius is that he fixes problems before we even realize we have them. By simplifying at every opportunity, he’s created products that we can’t imagine any other way.
If you enjoyed the ideas I shared, then I encourage you to download a free copy of my newest book, Build a Business, Not a Job. Click here for full details and to get your complimentary copy.