What Steve Jobs Taught Us About Design Thinking

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 3 min read

“Design is a really loaded word. I don’t know what it means. So we don’t talk a lot about design around here, we just talk about how things work. Most people think it’s about how they look, but it’s about how they work”

– Steve Jobs

Whether or not Jobs called it design, he was an early proponent of what is now called design thinking. Under Jobs, Apple’s products, interfaces, and marketing were meticulously designed to first and foremost meet the needs and wants of the end-user. To the millions of Apple-loyal customers around the world, their products just feel right.   

Empathy, a central reason for Apple's growth from Silicon Valley startup to global corporation, is a cornerstone of the methodology known as design thinking. If you ask a hundred design thinkers what design thinking is, you’ll get a hundred and one different answers, but I think Jobs’ quote is a great place to start: it’s about creating solutions that work.   

As technology rapidly evolves, consumers more than ever expect intuitive products, services, and experiences that meet their needs and wants without friction. They expect to be one-tap away from a personal car-service, one search away from all the world’s information, and one voice-command away from a purchase.

Design is a differentiator because it is great at creating simple human solutions for complex problems. A skilled designer is able to reshape a product, an organization, a service, a website, or an experience to best meet the needs of the end-user.         

Design Thinking is a set of principles and processes that mimic how a designer works. It codifies creativity and empowers employees across organizations to think differently about the challenges they are facing.     

Design Thinking principles include:

  • Empathy for the end-user
  • Curiosity
  • An openness to failure
  • Rapid prototyping
  • Cross-functional collaboration

Design Thinking processes include sprints, workshops, gamestorms, and other states of work and play that unlock creative thinking from teams of diverse backgrounds. But it’s not all fun and games, the wealth of ideas created by play are rigorously tested with real stakeholders and immediately iterated upon.    

Watch this TED talk from GE Designer Doug Dietz to learn how he used design thinking to reimagine the MRI machine for its youngest patients. Doug had decades of experience designing diagnostic imaging equipment, but the children that used his machines were terrified and often needed to be sedated. Doug used design thinking to completely transform the experience, and the results have been nothing short of incredible.     

Design thinking can transform your organization to better meet the needs and wants of both your employees and customers. It drives innovation and amplifies the creative problem-solving ability of every employee by stripping away the barriers that prevent them from thinking differently. It’s great for designing products and experiences, but can also be put to work to help solve any number of organizational challenges.

Or as Jobs may have put it, it makes you think about how things work.

Want to know more about how design thinking can transform your brand or business? Let's have a conversation about the power of human-centered design.