Simplicity Is Genius

How can a radically simple approach improve your confidence?

Simplicity brings confidence in the decisions you make and allows everyone in the organization to align behind a singular focus.

Ken Segall, former Creative Director for Steve Jobs, talks about the filter of simplicity that drove everything that Steve Jobs and Apple did.
Over all the years when we would accomplish pretty much anything, I just noticed a pattern. He seemed to see everything through this lens of simplicity and I realized that that was one of the key ingredients to Apple's success. It wasn't just the products that Apple made that were simple; it was the whole organization. It was the way Steve looked at how the company was organized, how they did advertising, how they set up their retail stores, how they packaged computers and devices. It was always about, "Let's make it quick and let's make it easy for people."

When I started to write my book "Insanely Simple" I actually wasn't sure I was writing a business book because I thought the way that Apple ran, the way Steve Jobs looked at things was just an interesting topic. I thought it had applications in people's own lives. I think we allow things to get complicated, and it starts with honesty, I suppose, too. If you're open and honest with people, you'll have less problems down the line.

All the opinions we have, and it has to do . . . I talk in the book about having confidence in your own opinion. Steve Jobs would never think to ask focus groups their opinion. I think it has to do with confidence and being sure that you're good at what you do and you believe in what you do, and you can look at something and say people are going to love this, and put it out there.

I know that's a very, very difficult thing for just about any company to do, but it's one of those facts of life. Steve never tested a single print ad or a single television commercial and he's famous for doing such high-quality advertising.

Well, I think if you have a very clear mission from the start that everyone can align themselves with and they can hold up their work and compare it to the mission and make sure that they're achieving it, that's one thing. But I think also, in marketing in particular, when you want to say something it's a question of not saying too many things and saying one thing and saying it well and saying it memorably.

I think too many people, even Steve Jobs on occasion, would want to get too many things in an ad, and that's when you start to have these conversations. There was one time in particular that's in my book where he wanted to jam a few extra things in an iMac ad, and we had a healthy debate about it and have to make the point that, "Trust us. It'll be better to say one thing and get more people to remember it than to get all of your copy points in. Just because you can check them off, it doesn't necessarily mean you've made a better commercial. You might be remembered by fewer people." There's sort of a sweet spot in there about how much information you can put in a piece of communication.

There's a fine line between the obsession with simplicity and perfectionism. I guess they are two sides of the same coin, but Steve had this perfectionist thing and he wanted everything to be absolutely perfect when he launched a new product. There are plenty of stories around about the design of the products, like the original iPhone that went through different iterations. Maybe it had three buttons at one point and Steve wanted no buttons and they kind of got it down to one button, and to him that was a far more perfect, a more simple way to go. He didn't stop when it was simple enough. He wanted to really make something wonderful. I think that's the love of simplicity, is the passion to keep pushing until you achieve it and never stop until you get to where you want to be.

Ken Segall

Ken Segall was the Steve Jobs confidant to create the iconic marketing of Apple's products for over 12 years. He is the design and creativity expert who first named the iMac and initiated the i-frenzy, and author of New York Times Be...

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