A Coincidence of Three Ideas

  • March 13, 2018
  • Scott
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There are three ideas that I coincidentally came across at the same time, despite being written in different years or months.

One More Thing

First, “One More Thing” by Steven Levy – an article on the new “mothership” Apple campus. The new Apple campus is, undoubtedly, a product of Jony Ive’s design – a different kind of product if you will.  And like all the other products .Apple designs and builds, Ive didn’t shy from choosing materials and forms that required new methods of production or assembly:

“This might be a stupid question,” I say. “But why do you need a four-story glass door?”

Ive raises an eyebrow. “Well,” he says. “It depends how you define need, doesn’t it?”

I’m guessing you don’t buy a four-story door at Home Depot. And the site – HP’s old campus – is symbolic in that HP was the pioneer of tech in the Bay Area in its day – and Apple its worthy successor.  As is the investment in an icon of a headquarters.  I can’t help but think that in the same way that Apple influences how we think about the brand with the design language of its retail stores, Apple feels that architecture will influence how employees think as they do their jobs- and how they feel about the brand they represent – working within this glass edifice.

I happen to believe that architecture and space profoundly affect cognitive thinking.  Stanford’s campus, nearby, has a combination of wide open spaces and private courtyards – with shade and sun… and the whole sense of space and scale seems to both encourage you to be thoughtful and also to dream bigger.  Perhaps the mothership will offer the same benefit to Apple.

Above Avalon’s take on the new Steve Jobs Theater building:

“The lobby, the only part of Steve Jobs Theater that is above ground, is massive, intriguing, and even magical. It doesn’t take long to notice the lack of walls or support structure.”

And:

“The intriguing use of Castagna stone and handrails hand-carved into the stone walls reminded me of a mix between an Egyptian structure and something from space. Photos and videos don’t do them justice. “

And his conclusions about comfort zone:

We have arrived at a weird point in time. Silicon Valley giants are gaining unfathomable amounts of power yet remaining remarkable aloof when it comes to manufacturing and construction. Apple is the notable exception. Apple is the company most eager to step outside its comfort zone and experiment in construction and architecture realms. Apple sees the gap between architecture and design starting to shrink. According to Jony, architecture is “a sort of product design; you can talk about it in terms of scale and function and materials, material types. I think the delineation is a much, much softer set of boundaries that mark our expertise.”

The new HQ and Theater are symbolic of Apple’s ambitions.

The Notch

I pre-ordered the iPhone X.  I didn’t particularly like the notch.  I was worried about whether  would like Face ID as well as I had liked Touch ID.  But when Apple offered as many or more pixels than an iPhone 8 Plus, in a form factor only marginally bigger than an iPhone 8, I had to take the chance. Ultimately, I trusted Apple enough to feel it wasn’t much of a risk.

After months of using the phone, I’m sold.  Face ID works for me in the dark, in the light, and in almost every circumstance. Within 2 days I was so used to the new gestures that I was trying to use them on my iPad and other devices.  The resolution and screen is every bit as good as advertised. And the Notch has become the brand.  It doesn’t phase me, and actually has a bit of utility – “which way is up?”.

Jean-Louis Gassée captures the essence of how I feel about it in his article on “third impressions“.  It feels like the iPhone X is a new jumping off point.  On the other hand, there’s this take – that it is the beginning of the end for phones!  And that isn’t so crazy.  One can imagine the “phone” feature moving to the Apple Watch… and everything else moving to an iPad for example (or something more like current iPhones without bothering with Cellular). It’s a clever take on what otherwise is a tour de force by Apple in 2017.

Patience

And lastly, an article by Mike Kruzeniski on Jony Ive’s patience – a now 25-26 year veteran at Apple, Mike, back in 2015 points out that Ive spent his first 10 years at a company (Apple) that wasn’t making money, was going through gut-wrenching change and risk, and going through a real pressure cooker in the market.  And Jony and his team largely stayed intact throughout.

“I doubt that it took 20 years for Ive to come up with the idea for the Watch, or to find the right design for it. For the past two decades, Apple and Ive have been carefully building a company that’s capable of building the Watch. That’s 23 years of finding talent, hiring the right people, building the right teams, developing relationships, investing in skills and technologies, establishing manufacturing and distribution, and proving out the products and business models. Ive’s patience to grow with Apple over the last two decades allows him to design the greatest products in the world today. Other companies have thought of building smart watches, only Apple is able to build the Watch.”

Last week, Dave Morin tweeted that the average tenure for employment at San Francisco right now is 15 months.

Let that sink in.  Ive wasn’t putting in the time at a company far from Silicon Valley – he was one of our generation’s very best designers in the heart of Silicon Valley. And he put in a decade just to get to the point where he can do the kind of work he wants to do.

It is the patience that Ive possessed that allowed him to assemble the team and conditions for producing that ultimate Apple HQ building, and the ultimate iPhone X (until next year’s model!), and his own career and team.

Three ideas… all giving a glimpse of the Apple zeitgeist.

 

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