A little while ago I was going through some old Steve Jobs interviews on YouTube when I found one that stood out. The video involved one of his own developers insulting him on stage before a crowded room of people. In 1997, Apple ditched 7 years of work on something called "Open Docs" technology. This infuriated a lot of the people who had been working on it for a good deal of their life. After all, they believed in the platform and couldn't understand why it got cancelled.
The interview itself is pretty awkward. But Steve Jobs response is brilliant. He compares the situation to the first Laser Printer Apple developed. It was full of ground breaking technology for the time. Apple Talk & Adobe Post-Script software to name a few. But when Jobs first saw a print out he held it up and thought, "This is all we need".
Imagine the number of people who worked on creating that printer. On all the different technologies both hardware and software. The hours that went into it. Anyone in that industry would assume that those things combined would be enough to sell it. But Jobs thought otherwise. He knew that real people don't care about those types of things. He knew that all you needed to do was hold up a print out, and people would think "wow".
It may seem trivial to think about the printer now. But you can see the same thought process repeated across all the products he worked on. The iPhone being the obvious example. How many people who bought one actually cared how they'd made the screen the keyboard? Pinch to zoom, swipe to unlock. It just made sense. It felt like that's what phones should've been like all along.
There's a lot a designer can learn from the way Steve Jobs thought. Real people don't care about flat design, kerning or your use of a touch screen wacom tablet. Yes, of course those things are important to us. But sometimes we can lose sight of the bigger picture. We can overcomplicate it and forget that this is not about us and what we do.
Next time you sit down with a new brief have a think about what Steve Jobs said. Reverse the process. Think more like "This is how we'll sell it, now how do we make it?". Rather than "This is what we'll make, now how do we sell it?". If you always follow that trail of thought, how can you ever go wrong?
It's like Steve said, "You've got to start with the customer".