Prototyping at Apple

12 Jun 2008 - 7:40am
6 years ago
4 replies
1594 reads
Mitchell Gass
2004

There's an interview with the author of a new book about Steve Jobs at

<http://machinist.salon.com/blog/2008/06/09/leander_kahney/index.html>http://machinist.salon.com/blog/2008/06/09/leander_kahney/index.html

with some interesting information about prototyping at Apple:

It's a process where they discover the product through constantly
creating new iterations. A lot of companies will do six or seven
prototypes of a product, because each one takes time and money. Apple
will do a hundred -- that's how many they did of the Macbook. Steve
Jobs doesn't wake up one morning and there's a vision of an iPhone
floating in front of his face. He and his team discovered it through
this exhaustive process of building prototype after prototype.

The prototypes are fully functioning. They have a studio packed with
high-end manufacturing equipment. Initially the prototypes are built
in big polycarbonate boxes, but as they perfect the enclosure they'll
build fully functioning models in the studio and then on factory
lines to make sure they can be manufactured.

One of the important things about this process is they often find
what fails. Jobs has said he's as proud of the stuff they haven't
done as the stuff they have done. They made a PDA in the late 90s to
compete with Palm, but they never released it because it didn't live
up to their expectations.

Mitchell Gass
uLab | PDA: Learning from Users | Designing with Users
Berkeley, CA 94707 USA
+1 510 525-6864 office
+1 415 637-6552 mobile
+1 510 525-4246 fax
http://www.participatorydesign.com/

Comments

12 Jun 2008 - 9:00am
John Gibbard
2008

[Talking of Apple-related books, has anyone read iWoz? Really not sure
what I made of that, partly fascinating partly self-aggrandizing
peacock-prose.]

In terms of prototyping fortunately with tools like iRise (ahem),
Axure, DENIM and Thermo jostling for position we're in the fortunate
situation where - if we've got the time and space to do it - we can
do hundred of iterations too. That's not to say it's everyone's
bag and we do have to be careful that iteration doesn't just mean
repeat but includes incremental, quantifiable improvement.

John

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12 Jun 2008 - 9:49am
Fred Beecher
2006

On 6/12/08, Mitchell Gass <mitchell at participatorydesign.com> wrote:
>
>
> One of the important things about this process is they often find what
> fails. Jobs has said he's as proud of the stuff they haven't done as the
> stuff they have done. They made a PDA in the late 90s to compete with Palm,
> but they never released it because it didn't live up to their expectations.

That's the beauty of prototyping... you can get all that failure out of your
system BEFORE you go to market. Failure, I think, is the designer's most
powerful tool.

F.

12 Jun 2008 - 10:51am
dszuc
2005

Important that people feel they are in an environment that allows and
encourages failure towards something better. Allowing time to iterate
also means you can test against assumptions.

Unfortunately, there are companies that still operate in a
"traditional agency mode" - throw a problem over the fence to the
agency and expect an agency to come up with a pretty design solution
(without any iteration or understanding of the process to get to a
better solution)

rgds,
Dan

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12 Jun 2008 - 12:01pm
Jeff Howard
2004

Here's an older article [1997] that gives some insight into the
history of prototyping at Apple.

// jeff

What Do Prototypes Prototype?
http://www.viktoria.se/fal/kurser/winograd-2004/Prototypes.pdf

They authors identify three types of prototypes:
* Look-and-feel prototypes
* Implementation prototypes
* Role prototypes

>From the article:
"We propose a change in the language used to talk about prototypes,
to focus more attention on fundamental questions about the
interactive system being designed: What role will the artifact play
in a user's life? How should it look and feel? How should it be
implemented? The goal of this chapter is to establish a model that
describes any prototype in terms of the artifact being designed,
rather than the prototype's incidental attributes. By focusing on
the purpose of the prototype--that is, on what it prototypes--we can
make better decisions about the kinds of prototypes to build. With a
clear purpose for each prototype, we can better use prototypes to
think and communicate about design."
--

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