Inside Apple University, where new recruits learn about Apple's approach to design


Over the weekend, the New York Times published an in-depth look into Apple's secretive training program, known as Apple University. Run by former dean of Yale School of Management Joel Podolny, the initiative was conceived by Steve Jobs to get new recruits acquainted with Apple's approach to design, which focuses on simplicity. For instance, a course taught by Pixar alumnus Randy Nelson highlights the differences in the design and execution of the Apple TV remote, which features three buttons, and compares it to Google TV's 78-button remote.

According to an Apple employee who took the course:

Randy Nelson showed a slide of the remote control for the Google TV, said an employee who took the class last year. The remote has 78 buttons. Then, the employee said, Mr. Nelson displayed a photo of the Apple TV remote, a thin piece of metal with just three buttons. How did Apple's designers decide on three buttons? They started out with an idea, Mr. Nelson explained, and debated until they had just what was needed — a button to play and pause a video, a button to select something to watch, and another to go to the main menu.

Apple University has a full-time faculty selected from Yale, Harvard, the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, and M.I.T. that design and teach courses which cover a wide variety of subjects, which include integrating resources from acquired companies, design philosophy and discussing major decisions undertaken in Apple's history,like the move to bring iTunes to Windows.

Mr. Jobs hated the idea of sharing the iPod with Windows, but he eventually acquiesced to his lieutenants. It turned out that opening the iPod to Windows users led to explosive growth of the music player and the iTunes Store, an ecosystem that would later contribute to the success of the iPhone.

Another course, titled "Communicating at Apple", features artwork by Pablo Picasso to highlight how designers at Apple strive for simplicity when it comes to building smartphones and other devices.

Picasso's Bull, a series of eleven lithographs in which the master artist deconstructs a bull down to its most abstract form, is shown as inspiration for Apple's minimalist design philosophy. "You go through more iterations until you can simply deliver your message in a very concise way, and that is true to the Apple brand and everything we do," said an individual who took the course.

The full story is well worth a read as it gives an insight into the world of Apple and its unique approach to product design.

Source: New York Times

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Harish Jonnalagadda

Newsroom Warrior for Mobile Nations

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Reader comments

Inside Apple University, where new recruits learn about Apple's approach to design


That's a pretty poor comparison between the google tv remote and the Apple tv remote. Given google tv has a full web browser designed for viewing proper websites in your tv a 78 button remote with qwerty keyboard makes sense and makes the device easy to use for this purpose. Given the design of the Apple TV and it's limited functionality of course Apple only needs to have 3 buttons. The thing that Apple needs to realise is that too simple actually makes things harder sometimes as I have experienced when using ios devices.

That's actually part of the design decision - what features & functions to include. GoogleTV decided to do more (and take over HDMI 1), whereas AppleTV decided to do far less (on HDMI 2), simply.

Now, for those who need more, AppleTV is inadequate. But given their respective market reception, it is hard to dispute the most successful point on the simplicity/power continuum is slanted more in Apple's direction.

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You mean where employees are indoctrinated and their minds narrowed, apple haven't got anything taped down well enough as evidenced by their products, to start enshrining philosophy's.

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