There is arguably no other company with the same global reputation or ubiquitous success as technology giants Apple. The company, after all, is potentially on the brink of becoming the world’s first ever $1 trillion business organisation.
There are a great many things which have contributed to the meteoric rise of Apple, but one of the most prominent has to be the company’s positioning at the very forefront of product design. How then have Apple managed to maintain that prominent position, almost throughout their existence?
Design is Front & Centre
It may sound simple but one of the main reasons why Apple have long been at the forefront of product design is because the company appreciate and embrace the importance of design itself. At Apple, after all, designers are given far more freedom than at many organisations and Apple design teams generally do not have to answer to finance, manufacturing or other areas of the company.
In a sense, therefore, at Apple design leads rather than follows and Apple designers are given a simple yet crucial remit. That is that design should be about ‘how it works, not how it looks’ and that product designers should focus on creating products that they would want to buy and to use. That may sound straightforward, but is not an approach taken by many of Apple’s direct competitors – or at least it didn’t used to be.
The prominence and importance of design to Apple as a whole is born out in practice, too. While working on new products, design teams are typically deliberately cut off from the rest of the business and are not required to work according to the traditional organisational hierarchy.
Well-Defined & Efficient Process
Alongside a philosophy which puts design first, Apple also boasts a well-established and impressive process which allows designers to be as efficient as possible.
Much of that process is laid out, in fact, by what is known as the Apple New Product Process (ANPP) information. That information creates a framework inside which design teams work, detailing – amongst other things – who is responsible for what in the production of a new product and when different stages are due for completion.
Apple’s design process, too, is kept efficient and lean by an impressive level of interaction between design teams and company decision makers. All new products in the pipeline are reviewed at least once a fortnight by the Apple Executive Team in order to minimise delays in decision making and keep design efficiency at its optimum.
At Apple, too, the design process is by no means considered to be over once manufacturing begins. In fact, there is a well-established and successful routine of building, testing and review which goes into the production of each new product. What that means is that iterations of each product are manufactured and tested, then returned to the design team for improvements multiple times through the product’s design process.
Each cycle of improvement can take around four to six weeks and is continually repeated until the company’s high design standards are met. It is through that repeated improvement, therefore, that Apple manages to maintain its reputation for quality.
Find out more about Apple’s design philosophy here.