Home' Technology Review : May June 2007 Contents 58 FEATURE STORY
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left, he hired Jonathan Ive, who has since
become---next to Jobs---the person most
identi ed with Apple s design primacy).
"For example," he says, "if a power sup-
ply was too big for the form we wanted to
use, we told a manufacturer, Let s gure
out a way to use a new power supply. "
Brunner, who will leave San Fran-
cisco design rm Pentagram this year to
open a new design and marketing rm
called Ammunition, is no design slouch
himself. His work is included in the per-
manent collections of both MOMA and
SFMOMA. In appearance, however, he
is the antidesigner. "If Hollywood made
a movie about Robert Brunner, the only
man who could play him would be Steve
McQueen," wrote Nate Voss, introducing a September 2006
episode of the popular Be a Design Group podcast. This is
a man whose latest work is a grill that is expensive, beauti-
ful, and carefully detailed---but still very much a device on
which men cook meat.
Br unner estimates that today Apple spends 15 to 20 per-
cent of its industrial-design time on concept---far more than
most other computer companies---and the rest on imple-
mentation. He says that Apple rides herd on manufactur-
ers, sending design-team members to factories for weeks at
a time to see what can be done and to push manufacturers
to nd new solutions. If the designers see a true innova-
tion, they can integrate it into their designs and check the
quality of execution at the point of manufacture.
"That s why it s perfect," says Br unner, "and the reason
this is getting done is because Steve Jobs is saying, Do it. "
"Pushing companies to innovate is a virtuous circle,"
Declaring the importance of industrial design may
have at rst been a purely emotional decision for
Jobs, or he may have had some sense of design s sub-
conscious importance to customers. Either way, those inter-
viewed for this article say the emphasis on design was there
at Apple s inception, and it was there because of Jobs.
That emphasis did persist in Jobs s absence. But the com-
pany s design process was di erent, explains Don Nor man,
who was vice president of advanced technology at Apple
from 1993 to 1998. Norman, who now teaches product
design at Northwestern University s Institute for Design
Engineering and Applications and ser ves as a principal at
the Nielsen Norman Group, a consultancy that focuses on
"the human-centered product development process," led
Apple teams that developed new technologies and helped
develop the company s process for product design.
"There were three evaluations required at the inception
of a product idea: a marketing requirement document, an
engineering requirement document, and a user-experience
document," Norman recalls. Rolston elaborates: "Marketing
is what people want; engineering is what we can do; user
experience is Here s how people like to do things. "
"These three [documents] would be reviewed by a com-
mittee of executives, and if approved, the design group
would get a budget, and a team leader would be assigned,"
Norman says. At that point, he continues, "the team would
work on expanding the three requirement documents,
inserting plans on how they hoped to meet the marketing,
engineering, and user-experience needs--- gures for the
release date, ad cycle, pricing details, and the like." And
the team s progress would be continually reviewed as the
project went forward.
It was a fairly typical process for the industry, says
Br unner. "A division---portables, desktops, et cetera---would
decide on a product they wanted to do and eventually engage
the design group." Sometimes the design group would have
early input on the product; but sometimes "we d hear, You
have two weeks, " he says. "There was already a con gura-
tion set, and then it d just be a styling task."
Nor man describes Apple s design method back then as
"a well-str uctured process" and says he is still proud of it.
But he is quick to point out its shortcomings.
"It was a consultative process," he says; many di erent
points of view and impressions were solicited. But "this
can lead to a lack of cohesion in the product, when you
nd yourself asking another manager, What are you add-
ing in? " Rolston observes that within such a framework,
"you d get a cascade of people responsible for various fac-
tors injecting their concer ns."
SIMPLICITY ITSELF: The Mac Mini is Apple s most basic offering.
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