The Secret of Apple Design

One direct result of that sharpened focus is Apple’s unique ability to create simple products. Though the idea of a simple high-tech device seems counterintuitive (why not offer more functionality if you can?), it’s worked for Apple.

“The hardest part of design, especially consumer electronics,” says Norman, “is keeping features out.” Simplicity, he says, is in itself a product differentiator, and pursuing it can lead to innovation.

Rolston agrees. “The most fundamental thing about Apple that’s interesting to me,” he says, “is that they’re just as smart about what they don’t do. Great products can be made more beautiful by omitting things.”

Brunner says that part of what makes minimalist design possible at Apple is the way Jobs structured the design group–and the way he privileged it. “The design leader has to walk a fine line,” he says. “He has to be integrated with the company but keep his team members protected from being lobbied by marketing, engineers, manufacturers. They all have viewpoints on design.” In recognition of these pressures, Apple has always kept its design team small–somewhere between 12 and 20 people, Brunner estimates.