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What I Learned as a Product Designer at Apple

Apple Product

By Aabusad PathanPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

In2021 I landed my dream job. Working at Apple, the holy grail of minimalistic design, innovation and creativity. A place where misfits have a seat on the table and where bold, crazy ideas are highly encouraged. As a Product Designer, working at Apple was a life changing experience, and all I can say is that I’ll keep carrying some of its principles with me wherever I go. In the one year that I worked at Apple, here are the top 10 lessons I learned:

Apple is a unique company and I believe that the way they do product design can only be successful due to their business model, which allows for innovation, failure, risks, and strong focus on design craft excellence, even if it takes a long time to get there.

Build a great product, not an MVP.

Storytelling is the best skill we need to develop as product designers.

A top-down culture is not as bad as we think.

Disclaimer: The opinions presented here are all based on my experience and don’t necessarily reflect how Apple operates.

Great design will take you far, great communication will take you even further: influence people and move things forward.

Projects get built when enough people believe in them. From small talks to elaborating decisions to VP presentations. The way we speak, project ourselves and elaborate our thoughts is fundamental for getting consensus, influencing people, and moving things forward.

My biggest learning was to put passion into my speech. Not only when presenting work, but especially when talking in meetings. Be truly excited about your work and show this excitement to everyone working around you.

Jobs had an amazing ability to make his ideas understandable and memorable because he spoke with passion

Storytelling is your superpower: are we deck designers after all?

One of the things that surprised me the most was to see that for any piece of work being shared, designers would put together a keynote deck for it. It could be the smallest thing, like a quick look at the latest work progression, or big presentations, of course. At Apple, designers use the power of storytelling to influence others, instead of just showing what they are doing.

A few tips I learned when presenting work on decks are:

Tell a story instead of explaining the process.

Only focus on one idea per slide. Don’t confuse what you’re saying by having busy slides. Use one bold sentence per slide. Instead of paragraphs of text.

Use presenter notes as a script for your speech. Let the image/mockups paint the picture of what you’re saying in the background.

Rehearse your presentations. Even if it’s just a small design critique for a few designers, take one hour or less before the meeting to go through your narrative and know exactly what you need to say to get straight to the point.

Have fun! It goes back to how you want people to feel and how helping people feel optimistic during your presentation will help you gain their trust and move things forward (even if the work needs some iteration).

It comes down to the company culture. Apple is known for being an innovative brand, so there’s a natural expectation that the company will be working towards releasing innovative products and experiences and this affects how the company prioritizes its efforts.

So I guess the learning is, if you want to be innovative, focus on the big wins instead of the small ones. Even if it takes more time to get there.In the ideal world, whenever we’re designing, we user test to spot any red flags on usability or accessibility.

CONTENT WARNINGmobilecheatsartaction adventure

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