Apple sent me an email today, along with presumably several million other customers. The message I took away from it: I should buy someone an Apple product to enable them to unleash their creativity. It’s the sort of thing you get from every company in the run-up to Christmas as they vie for a spot at each of our personal altars to consumerism.
However, Apple’s was notable for one thing: it didn’t make a single mention of a specification or even the features of its products.
It concentrated entirely on what those products would mean to those who received them.
Instead of selling me the pixel density of the screen or the speed of the processor like every other manufacturer, it implored me to buy an iPad for my loved ones to: ‘Let them choreograph the school play. Explore the North Pole. Organise a Christmas fayre. And play their favourite carols wherever they go.’
Paying lip service to this importance of experiences over features has become almost cliche in the technology industry. In the years we’ve been running the MEX initiative, there has certainly been a transformation in the number of companies which acknowledge the importance of experience-led design. However, the competitive differentiator remains the ability to extend this thinking through every aspect of an organisation, from the way it conceives products to the way it communicates with customers.
Apple, of course, is by no means perfect in this regard, but this kind of advertising hints at the degree to which it both says what it means and means what it says. This is what makes it stand out from other technology companies and why more of its products have been consistently successful.
It is a belief which necessarily comes from the senior management. Speaking at the London Design Museum on 12th November, Apple’s head of design Sir Jonathan Ive said:
“We’ve tried very hard to be very clear, and this is absolutely sincere, that our goal at Apple isn’t to make money. That isn’t our goal…Our goal is to desperately try to make the best products we can.”
He qualified that, of course, Apple’s management was not naive and that making good products and being operationally effective should lead to good financial returns, but he went on to further emphasise why it is the belief in manifesting a set of values in a product which makes the difference between good and bad design.
“Those are very easy words to say. The practice is what I think makes good design. That’s what you really do and you really believe. There are many decisions that we make that might not appear to make fiscal sense, which is why the motivation that I’ve just described is so important. You can look at something we’ve done and it costs a lot more to make it the way that we want to make it. I can’t justify that extraordinary additional amount of money to make it other than it’s the right thing to do. It’s made it better. There’s integrity there. You hope that people can tell the difference.”