I had a philosophical discussion with Sai about branding and design, and I started thinking about a theory…
When we look around us as to how people share information, we have all these tubes (apps) where information in pushed in one end and received on the other end. So when we ask people do you have a way to share pictures, the answers is Yes, since there are many tubes to push information through. When it comes to pictures and the way you would enjoy a picture, we never ask the question - how you feel about that picture you are looking at, something that cannot be captured in an answer anyway. If you asked people who used PC’s back in the 80's or 90's they would say “yeah it works, and gets the job done”. But Steve’s focus is not just on the utility but also on the experience and personalization. No wonder Gates admired Steve’s taste in product development.
I watch Kim Kardashian’s show and like looking at her dresses, so I downloaded Instagram since Instagram is all about pictures. I followed Kim and some others, and all of a sudden I realized, the focus on Instagram is not the “picture”. Yes, there is a picture, but there is so much more going on around pictures, there’s other people’s pictures above and below Kim’s since the feed view can fit up to 3 pictures, then there is all this text around Kim’s picture. Kim’s picture is limited to a small box, and I was completely surprised that I cannot even see the picture full screen !
The other example is shopping for clothes at a regular store versus shopping at a high end store. They both sell clothes, but the look, feel and experience is completely different. At a regular store you are completely drowned in clothes and people. You barely spend a few seconds looking at a piece of clothing, before you move on. At the high end store, you spend a little more time holding onto the piece of clothing, thinking about it, and enjoying the experience, more than rushing through people and clothes. The more important thing — the actual clothing itself. A lot of focus is spent by the store on presentation, instead of just piles of clothes all over the place.
I like looking at Kim’s pictures, and I would enjoy the experience far better, if I could just take my time looking at full screen pictures and enjoying what I’m looking at, like I was browsing through a magazine. I realized we have several apps out there making News looks pretty and fancy (like paper, flipboard etc), but the picture apps don’t care as much about design, presentation and experience. I find that very strange !
If everyone in the world always shopped at regular stores, and there were no high end stores, people would not know what its like to shop at a high end store, its not something you can imagine, you have to experience it.
If I was making another picture app, I would think about this Picasso quote from Steve Jobs — “good artists copy and great artists steal”. and here’s a good explanation for what it means (from yahoo answers)
He meant that every artist is influenced by what has been done before their time. If not by direct exposure, the information the artist is exposed to through other people, media, etc. influences them. We are all a product of our times and have the benefit of those who have walked similar paths we are now on.
We all borrow because it has all been done before and we are not the originators. To merely copy is to take an existing interpretation and not run away with it. To steal an idea is to take something of value and make it yours. To make an artistic element yours you have to interpret it your way with your own approach.
This cannot be done when you are merely copying the idea. When copying the idea you are just doing everything exactly like it was previously done. When you have done it your way you have used the element and not simply duplicated it.
It is not required that you advance the element. You can go sideways and even backwards with the idea and you can be stealing the element and not copying it. On the contrary, when merely copying the element you have failed if you do not match the original.