Steve Jobs: The Top & Bottom

by Luke Wroblewski November 17, 2010

In a really insightful interview John Sculley (former CEO of Apple) recently provided some key insights into what he referred to as the "Steve Jobs method" of making great products.

John summarized Steve's approach as

  1. Always start from the perspective of what the user’s experience is going to be.
  2. Intently focus on the design.
  3. Spend time on the precise detail of every step.
  4. Look at the entire end-to-end system.
  5. Reduce things to their simplest level.

But what really stood out to me from the interview was John's continuous reference to Steve Jobs as a designer. In particular:

"On one level he is working at the “change the world,” the big concept. At the other level he is working down at the details of what it takes to actually build a product and design the software, the hardware, the systems design and eventually the applications, the peripheral products that connect to it."

I've long considered this kind of top to bottom approach a hallmark of great designers. In fact, whenever I interview designers I look for two things: an ability to understand and speak to the rationale behind a design (the big picture) and a focus on the nuances of the design (the details). A skilled designer adds value at both the top (the big picture) and the bottom (the details) of a design problem. When the top and bottom are thought through, the middle naturally works itself out.

Nice to see others recognize this crucial characteristic of designers.