Simplicity Leads to Smart Design Innovation

In a world full of complicated, plentiful options, what really stands out?

Summary
Transcript
Ken Segall, former Creative Director for Steve Jobs, asserts that the world is complex and simplicity is hard to find. Those who seek simplicity often see a renewed sense of smart design and innovation and stand out from the crowd.
One of the great things about simplicity is that it stands out in a complicated world. If the world weren't complicated I don't think people would appreciate simplicity the way they do.

I think Apple made its fortunes on the fact that the world doesn't operate the way Apple does, so in a weird way I think it's kind of a good thing that the world is complicated and that simplicity is hard to find, because companies and people who are really good at achieving simplicity just stand out that much more, because Apple refuses to make all those things.

They make a couple of computers and a couple of phones, iPad, that kind of thing, but if you compare it to, like a Dell, who's got over 40 distinct models of laptops where Apple had basically two, and Apple makes more money, that's been part of that simplicity thing for Steve which was don't spread out too thin. Don't distract yourself. Do a couple of things really, really well, and make it easy for people to see what you stand for and what you do.

Apple does this amazing job of minimizing. That's what they're super, super good at. Every product has all these features and all the product points they want to mention or whatever. Everything is just distilled into one simple easy-to-digest thing, and that's the message they send out everywhere, and the results are obvious, revolution after revolution.

A leader can be very refreshing by being honest and inviting people to participate to laying out what the goal is and inviting them also to help simplify. If you see something that needs to be fixed, let's talk about it. Let's not learn to live with these things only because it's always been that way.

People forget that when Steve came back to Apple it actually wasn't very simple. It had become very complicated over 11 or 12 years that he was gone. It wasn't as if he could just apply the values he always had. He had to remake a complicated company based on the values he already had. So he laid out his vision, he got group participation, he got the job done and he made it very clear that that's what the company was all about.

He led by example, and his example was to distill everything to its essence, make things perfectly clear, and use your common sense. He was very willing to take more time and spend more money if it meant making a simpler, better product. I think you do lead by example, and when your vision is simple and clear, your people find it that much easier to follow you. I think a great leader is one who stands for something very distinct and makes it easy for people to commit to that goal, and then begin to hopefully create a culture where people don't compromise and they don't let things get in the way of the goal. I think that's what was so very special about Steve.
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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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