On Art, featuring Jony Ive

A quote from Jony Ive, taken from Kahney’s biography “Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products”:

There is an obsession about product attributes that you can measure empirically. How fast is it? How big is the hard drive? How fast is the CD? That is a very comfortable space to compete in because you can say eight is better than six.
It’s…very inhuman and very cold. Because of the industry’s obsession with absolutes, there has been a tendency to ignore product attributes that are difficult to measure or talk about. In that sense, the industry has missed out on the more emotive, less tangible product attributes.
But to me, that is why I bought an Apple computer in the first place. That is why I came to work for Apple. It’s because I’ve always sensed that Apple had a desire to do more than the bare minimum. It wasn’t just going to do what was functionally and empirically necessary… I got a sense that care was taken even on details, hard and soft, that people may never discover. (emphasis mine)

Jony’s insight is worth a long think.

I notice that what gives businesses and brands the edge isn’t exactly the “hard specs”, the empirically measurable features. The best business is not the one that can produce the fastest loading time, the most responsive screen, the lowest cost, the thinnest width.

Don’t get this wrong: the “specs” are important. You can’t expect customers to buy a bad product. But, as more and more the world moves away from the Industrial Revolution-mindset, the pursuit of “lowest cost” and “fastest” and “optimum” becomes a rat race. Differences become more and more marginal, and the opportunities to stand out based solely on features and “specs” become less.

What sets a brand that leaves a legacy (such as Apple) apart from an ordinary, forgettable one? Jony Ive points it out in his quote above: emotion and “human-ness”. I’d like to take this one step further: it’s the creation of art. It’s the ability to delight the customers and make an emotional connection with them.

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