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Understanding the Soul of an Organisation Requires Conversation

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In this article from design consultancy Dubberly Design Office, former Apple creative Hugh Dubberly explores how Steve Jobs made Apple’s product development process self-sustaining through creating partnerships with designers and having “design conversations”.

These conversations were key to Job’s view of what design is. “In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

Understanding the soul of a product (or of an organization) requires conversation—about what you believe in, about fundamental values, about quality. These ideas must be argued and agreed. Likewise, expressing the soul of a product requires still more conversations, still more argument and agreement. At this level, design is conversation.

But only one form of conversation leads to a partnership, to deep trust, and ultimately to innovation and a sustained period of good design. Such conversations are principally about goals—about beliefs, about values, and about quality. Steve Jobs learnt to foster such conversations.