Inside the Apple Design Lab
I happened upon an issue of "Fast Company" at the grocery store checkout aisle a couple days ago, and grabbed it because the cover come-on in large type is "Inside the Apple Design Lab." The article's author managed to find several people who have worked (past tense) in Apple Design labs. Most departed to start their own companies.
The article is not available on the web, but I would encourage you to seek out the issue, which contains the story as well as many others on industrial and software design (it's their annual "Design Issue") including redesigns by Google, Flipboard, Pinterest, etc. as well as urban core design (the Highline Park in New York) and more. I was surprised to find it at the grocery, which leans towards "women's" magazines, but there it was...
Anyway, interesting tidbits:
Steve originally wanted the Apple stores to be much (MUCH) larger, but was talked down in size when others pointed out that at the time Apple's product line consisted of two laptops, two desktops, and not much software. So the designers downsized and created "retail theater" to use up space: a kids area, a photo zone, the Genius bar, etc, and needless to say, a smaller footprint.
There was an unwritten rule among designers in the lab that if Steve came in, everyone had to slowly and deliberately move to the other side of the space.
One of Steve's first skunkworks projects was "an internet computer" because his daughter was about to go to college. It would contain no hard drive and little storage, but because bandwidth was so limited, it failed. (Sounds like a Google product I know.)
Steve drove Ron Johnson crazy, because Johnson would always give traditional retail answers to Steve's questions. Like "You're going to take away 20% of your selling space to have an area for free advice? Are you *&^$%# crazy?" But Steve wanted to see how far he could bend the model.
Ives is highly political: "But if you challenge the VP of Design and you're not a designer, there are going to be consequences. There are many people who are not at Apple because Jony has decided that person was in his way."
On skeumorphism: "A lot of the press latched on to the fact that Forstall was the guy who was really pushing skeuomorphism. The truth is, it was Steve. He would look at wood and leathers, and there would be these extensive reviews of materials just to see what would look best on the calendar app or the bookshelf app."
And "At Apple we were always asking: What else can we revolutionize? We looked at video cameras and remote controls. The craziest thing we talked about was something like Google Glass. We said "What if we make visors, so it's like you're sitting in a theater?" But we had such success with the things were were already doing that we didn't have time. (Ironically, that one comes from Tony Fadell, who left Apple to found Nest, the company of Apple-like designed thermostats. (Which has recently announced they're close to debuting smoke detectors.)
Anyway, an interesting issue. I might even subscribe! Weirdly, two of the fly-out cards offer a one year subscription for $10. But one offers 3 subscriptions for $10, two Christmas gift subs plus the original. Weird. They make money this way?