The Qualities of Great Design 

Session 801 WWDC 2018

Great Design isn’t magic, it is crafted with care by real people. Explore the characteristics of great design through the voices of designers from Apple and our developer community. Learn how they take inspiration from everyday life, conceive and refine ideas, and push themselves to design apps and games that can stand the test of time.

[ Music ]

[ Applause ]

Hello. Hi, I’m really excited to be here to talk to you today about The Qualities of Great Design.

My name is Lauren Strehlow, and I’m a design evangelist here at Apple.

The evangelism team, our number one goal is to help developers just like you create great apps.

And a big part of my job is actually to work with the design presenters who are putting on all of the awesome design session content that you see here at the conference.

So when I started to work with potential presenters this year about their talks, this theme of quality kept coming up, but nobody was talking about it head on, so I decided to.

But I went about it a little bit differently.

I decided to talk to great designers from our developer community, such as the creative director at The Game Band.

I also talked to the cofounders of the Layers Conference, which is actually happening right now across the street.

And I talked to the VP of Design at Khan Academy.

I also talked to some of my great colleagues here at Apple who work in a wide variety of design disciplines.

They work in type design, sound design, motion, visual, and interaction design.

These are all real people who I truly admire and respect, and I think they have created great apps and games that have tremendous caliber.

So I conducted a series of interviews.

I talked to 13 people, and I asked them a ton of questions to discover what quality means to them, what challenges they face, and what they do to strive for excellence in design.

So before you think any of this is scripted, I actually didn’t give anybody these questions in advance.

So everything you’re about to hear today is real reactions to these questions.

I collected over 15 hours of interview footage, and I’ve distilled it down to the very essence of these responses.

So the audio clips you’re about to hear today represent what I discovered about quality in great design.

So today, we’re going to dig into interpretations of quality and how it influences our perceptions and design directions.

We’re also going to talk about its effect on people’s lives.

[laughs] Actually, this is really exciting because it turned out to be so much more than what I expected.

We’re also going to hear about aspirations from the designers that I interviewed, to hear what drives them, what goals they have when they’re striving for quality, even if those goals seem unattainable.

And finally, I want to share some techniques that were revealed while asking people about their experiences.

And I hope that these techniques can help you approach the challenge of designing for a lot of people.

So this session is all about the qualities of great design defined by designers.

So let’s kick things off, and get started, and hear a few answers to this one simple question: What is quality?

Quality is nothing else than what we agree upon is good.

If something is quality, it implies that there is nothing random about it.

The number one thing is just that something with a lot of care and time went into it.

It’s one of those things that people can feel it when they feel it, and it’s very hard for them to put their finger on it.

All right.

This one I can really relate to.

I’m totally a feeler, and so this naturally led me to ask a follow-on question: What does quality feel like?

Does it feel like somebody has thought of you already and all the things that you need are easy to get to and very understandable?

I think that when I’m thinking about things that are quality or handling things that are quality, it’s things that aren’t painful to use in any way, which could be, like, mentally painful, physically painful, emotionally painful, things that don’t make me feel uncomfortable, or dumb, or [laughs] or inconvenienced.

If you just launch the app and you feel, as you use it, oh, well, this feels like state-of-the-art technology that I’m using.

This feels like it’s easier for me to get things done.

I feel more productive.

I feel like I’m able to achieve better results.

All the concentration that you’re building up goes to the task at hand, the thing that you actually want to do.

And that to me feels like quality.

If you’re able to achieve that, and people can be very creative, and make beautiful things, or have special moments through a device for example, by taking really good pictures, or sharing pictures with friends, or finding the right music to play at the right moment, or, you know, doing fun stuff with FaceTime, and seeing people on the other side of the world that you haven’t seen in a long time all of that is very special.

And again, none of that is around the UI that you’re doing.

None of that is about what interaction you chose to do that stuff.

That should all be obvious, and blatantly unspoken, and just completely in the background.

Wow. I just love that, that quality isn’t about the UI or interactions, that it’s about the moment, the people.

You know, these are the people that you’re designing for, and you’re helping them create memories and share those moments with others.

That is what this is all about.

So how do you design for that?

Well, I actually asked that question.

It’s hard.

[laughter] Yeah.

I hope you weren’t actually hoping for a real answer here.

It’s definitely very hard, and we have 55 minutes to dig into why.

So we just heard a ton of answers to this question, what is quality?

We heard that it is what we agree upon is good, that it’s not random, it’s something that shows a lot of care and time went into it, and it feels like somebody has thought of you already.

It can also be not painful in any way, and it feels state of the art.

Quality things make it easier to get things done.

And finally, your concentration goes to the thing that you really want to do, like sharing that picture or playing your favorite song.

So by asking about quality, it resulted in many different answers, but what’s so great about that is that it reflects what each one of these people truly care about.

And of course, people care about different things, so it makes complete sense that they all have different interpretations of what quality is when it applies to apps and games.

So we have a lot to get to today, but I really want to dig into just a couple of these responses.

I think they’re all great, but let’s just dig into this first one here.

And we’re going to listen to the clip one more time.

If something is quality, it implies that there is nothing random about it.

During this interview with Nicole, she explained that not random to her meant not slapped together.

And she used this word “considered.”

Great designs are considered.

They’re organized, and they show a thought process has taken place.

And what I found really interesting is that she said that that’s really visible to people, that that visibility of quality in design actually came up in another interview when I was talking with Mike.

I guess this is probably a little cliché sounding, but it’s often the little things that are the telltale signs about craftsmanship.

Okay, we have to pause right there because we’re about to talk about craft in a design session, and Mike already called it out that it’s a little cliché, but before we listen to the rest of this clip, I need you to imagine that you’re in the audio booth with us.

There’s not going to be anything on screen, so I want you to really focus on the words that Mike is about to say.

Okay, here we go.

We’re sitting in this room here, and there’s these panels on the wall, and the panels have a little bit of a gap between them.

And we can look at the width of the gap as you look from the top of the wall to the bottom of the wall.

And if there’s variable separation or variable width of that gap, you just get the sense that it wasn’t well crafted.

Right. So really, while Mike was talking about those variable widths in the gaps of the panels in the audio booth, you know, I understood that he’s saying that those details are visible, and they matter a lot.

And it’s through consideration and being really deliberate, and thinking through every single detail thoughtfully, well, that shows.

And so being really into your craft here is the point because the best things that we love are not random.

They’re not slapped together.

They’re intentional through every detail.

And if you can do that, that’s quality.

So let’s explore one more answer to the question, what is quality, and listen to the clip again.

The number one thing is just that something with a lot of care and time went into it.

This one in particular really resonated with me because when you’re writing questions to interviews like, what is quality, you naturally end up asking yourself, and to me, quality is all about care.

So when I heard care connected to quality not only from that clip we just heard from Travis, but it also came up in my interview with Gary.

If it’s quality, it’s better than something that’s not quality by virtue of someone caring about it.

Right. I totally agree that caring makes things better.

For example, I care about this presentation, so, naturally, it’s just a little bit better than if I didn’t care about it at all.

So now, I feel like we should dig into, what is care?

Okay, we’re going to stick with a few interview clips from Gary so you can hear more of the full conversation.

So I asked him, “How would you describe care?”

Just that someone, excuse my French, gave a [beep].

[laughter] I’m not sure if that’s a WWDC first, but it’s simple.

I like it.

[laughs] Really, what he’s saying here is that care is a motivator.

So how do you look at care in design?

I look at it from 2 lenses of care.

Did I care enough to make it the best it could be?

But do I also care about what your experience is?

Be it you.

Be it my mum.

Be it my next-door neighbor.

Be it anybody around the world.

You have to kind of, sort of take yourself out of the equation, put yourself in their shoes so you can be sure that their experience is a quality experience.

So you have to care enough to do that.

It’s not just about caring about your own sense of, “Oh, I like my design, and I cared enough to make it good for me.”

It’s about it being good for as many people as possible or for the target audience, if it happens to be a more narrowly focused thing.

Right. So when I heard this, I was just, I wanted to know how, immediately.

How do you design that experience for others, and how do you know when you’ve made progress?

I think sometimes we look at a tangled mess of problems that we need to solve, and if, at the end, you can look at the result and go, that is so much better, and if it came easy, it wouldn’t be as fun, but the fact that you sweated over it, that you really worked hard at it, that it gave you sleepless nights, that you poured late nights and weekends into solving those problems, combined effort, team effort, the end result is so much more satisfying.

I love it when we work hard and get there more than when ideas just come easily.

I worry that we’ve actually missed something by not working hard.

If it’s too easy, we’ve become complacent, and I don’t think you get anywhere rewarding without doing hard work.

I really understood this point about working hard after Gary related this to mountain biking.

We talked about this for a while, so I’m just going to summarize that conversation here for you today.

Essentially, you have to work really hard to get to the top of the mountain, and then you can have a ton of fun on the descent.

Now, it’s not as much fun if you just started at the top and went down because it’s really all of that time, and effort, and sweat that brings you to the top of the mountain that makes the view all that more beautiful and makes the ride down so much more fun.

So in life, care naturally gives more time and effort because you have a passion to achieve your goals, and you’ll do whatever is needed to meet your own expectations.

And yeah, that’s totally a lot of work, but that hard work has a payoff, and it’s really satisfying.

And the payoff, well, that’s why you did it in the first place, right?

You have a goal, and you make it happen.

That’s just awesome.

So quality is all about care, and because you care, you’re going to put in that time and effort to make things great.

And that’s just one answer to the question, what is quality?

And because there are so many different interpretations of quality, well, that means it’s just really hard to achieve.

A little bit later, we’re going to get into some techniques to hopefully help make the process of designing a little bit easier.

But for now, let’s just recap what we’ve learned.

So far, just by asking a few simple questions, we’ve learned that quality means something different to different people, that it’s not random it is crafted and considered.

Quality is the result of time, effort, and care.

And it is just hard to achieve, but that’s okay.

Quality has many different interpretations.

What is yours?

I think this is really important to ask yourself, what is quality, and what does it mean to you, and what does it mean to your app or game, because that’s going to reveal what you truly care about, and that’s going to help you focus on what you’re working towards going forward.

So let’s just pause here for a moment, and we actually need to go back a bit.

Why does quality matter in the first place?

Why are we even talking about it here at WWDC?

Well, what’s the significance?

Let’s just ask, why is quality important?

Quality impacts the world that we interact with in so many different ways all the time throughout our day.

Yeah. Travis is totally right.

Throughout our day, there are things that we eat, drink, wear, I mean, even the air we breathe.

They all have some level of quality that impacts us.

And we expect quality in our friendships, in our family, in our relationships.

We seek out people who show us respect, who care about us and make us feel good.

I mean, nobody keeps around poor-quality friends.

We also expect quality from the products that we use and the things that we use every day.

We expect them not to break.

And if they do break, well, we tend to think that they’re cheap and not well made, and we typically won’t buy them again.

So yeah, the concept of quality impacts our every day, and it’s really in everything.

While it’s really wide reaching and broad, there seems to be something so special about quality, but what is it?

What makes quality special?

They say, like, oh, I cooked this with love, and it can just be eggs or whatever, but it does taste different, and I think Jessie and I like to think that whatever we do, that sort of love for what we’re doing comes through.

Right? I know these two ladies absolutely love what they do, and I know I can feel it when someone really loves something.

And to Elaine’s first point, you know, I think everyone here knows that Mom and Dad’s food just tastes a little bit better because it’s made with that care and love.

So what really Elaine means by this is your intentions are felt.

So if your intention is to create something great and you do everything you need to do to achieve that, people are going to know.

They’re going to feel it.

And the reverse is true too.

You know, if you rushed and you didn’t really care about the look of settings in your app UI, well, it’s going to impact the overall feeling that people have about your app.

So throughout the course of conducting these interviews, I started to see the word “quality” everywhere, like quality coffee or quality meats.

And even one night when I was working really late, and I ordered a pizza, and the pizza box said, “Our commitment is quality.”

[laughs] So I see the word everywhere now.

It’s really pervasive, from signs to badges, to labels.

So I brought this up in a few of the interviews, not because I wanted to know what people thought of labeling, but, instead, to ask, why do we tend to be drawn towards things that are quality?

Well, survival instinct at its root.

On a more deep level, I guess, why do we desire quality?

We desire quality because we want to live.

And a good survival strategy for living is to put things into our body, to eat things, or to wear things, or to drive in things, or to live in things that are safe and have been well constructed so they aren’t going to cause us bodily harm.

And so I think purely on a survival level, quality is a very important concept for us.

It’s a very important attribute that we seek in everything.

Mike explained a bit further during this interview.

We were talking about this fictitious butcher shop, and if we were in this shop, quality would be communicated not only by the products itself, but also the shop being really clean and interacting with the really nice people that work there.

Every facet of the entire experience would meet your expectations, [laughs] and it would also be connected to that proposition of quality.

And that evokes trust.

Trust comes from products upholding their promise, and that quality experience is far more important than any label because I am definitely not suggesting that you add a label to your apps because you [laughs] definitely don’t need to.

Every facet of your app experience, from the screenshots on the App Store to the description, to how you respond to customer reviews, all through to your app’s interface, these experiences, these interactions that you have with people, that communicates the quality about your app or your game.

And you don’t want a label anyway.


In a way, it’s like saying you’re cool.

Like, being cool doesn’t involve saying you’re cool.

[laughs] And, you know, you only say that someone else is cool.

It’s only something which can be sort of determined by an outside party, in a way.

And even then, there’s a certain context where it feels more appropriate than others.

Like, if we’re talking about Thelonious Monk and we’re just talking about jazz in the ’50’s, like, that’s cool.

That’s the birth of cool, right.

[laughs] That’s where it’s, like, totally appropriate to use that kind of term, but that’s an earned coolness.

And so quality has to be earned.

I think Mike makes a really good point.

So the significance of quality is massive.

As we heard, it impacts our every day, it can be felt, and it evokes trust in the people that are using your app.

All right.

Now, everyone I talked to throughout these interviews, they all have a passion for excellence, so we’re going to talk about four design aspirations, and these four aspirations really stood out to me because, well, they seemed just so incredibly elusive and hard to achieve.

But these designers use them as motivation to strive for quality in their work, and these aspirations are to design things that are simple, stunning, timeless, and leave a positive impact on people’s lives.

So we’re going to dig into each one of these to discover why they’re important and also how they provide motivation to create great design.

All right.

Let’s start with simplicity.

This came up in response to this question: What makes a great app?

It’s simple.

It doesn’t try to do more than it needs to do.

And what it does, it does it really well.

I don’t know about you, but I have heard that a lot.

[laughs] So I’m sure you’ve heard it before too.

But there’s got to be a reason why that phrase is on repeat, and I was really thinking about this after the interview.

You know, why should apps be simple, and why is that a good thing?

Well, it finally clicked for me one day after work.

I got home, I needed to cook some dinner, and I needed an app to help me with a recipe, to not make cooking any harder than it already is.

And as soon as I was home, I remembered that I needed to go ahead and put, book pet care for my two dogs because I’m going on vacation after WWDC.

Aw, aren’t they cute?

[laughs] Okay, we have to stop before I get distracted.

We’re talking about two tasks here, cooking dinner and pet care.

Why do the apps that help me with those, why do they need to be simple?

Well, it’s because I don’t go into them all the time, so they need to be instantly understandable, as if I already know how to use them.

So familiar navigation and gestures really help with that.

You know, the goal is launch the app, I totally get it, and I can get the task done.

But why else should they be simple?

Well, it could be a good day or a bad day, but I’m using these apps in real life, and that’s where all of my mental energy should be, not wasted on a confusing app UI, interaction, or interface.

Apps should not be a burden, and it’s a lot easier to get back to real life when they’re simple.

So how would you describe simplicity in apps and games?

It just has to work.

Right. It just has to work for the people that are using it.

But there’s actually something else here.

You don’t want people to feel distracted.

Simple, easy-to-understand apps that just work, well, they help keep people focused.

I know for me, I can get really easily overwhelmed if something’s out of place.

It can just take me out of that experience, and that makes getting the task done even harder.

I was actually talking to Jessie about this, and I asked her, what does she look for in great apps?

Make my life feel a little bit easier or make my life feel a little bit nicer or more luxurious.

I think that is just spot on.

Make my life feel a little bit easier by being simple, focused, instantly understandable, and just do one thing really, really well.

That is the goal.

All right, this next aspiration is to be stunning, and this came up when I was talking to Caroline.

I asked her, “What communicates great visual design?”

Just that polish.

Does it look great?

Does it look stunning?

And then, the other level of polish, on a different kind of app, like a game or something, to me is making it feel beautiful as an experience, like it feels like a work of art.

Right, yes.

So we talked a little bit further about this, and Caroline explained that what she means by polish is things lining up just the way you intend them to be, including how it feels.

You know, swipe animations lining right up with those swipe gestures.

And the best apps appear visually perfect, and that is just totally remarkable.

And she also mentioned games.

Games should absolutely aspire to be stunning.

Games are a perfect escape from this world into a different one.

And they accomplish this through stunning, immersive visuals.

I mean, I love TV and movies, but that’s a really passive escape.

In games, well, they’re an active one, and that’s why I love them.

But there is one essential thing that all games must do.

They must teach you, the player, the rules.

And this is really a first impression that people have of a lot of games, so it makes me really sad when games make a bad first impression because when I’m trying to learn, well, the rules feel slapped together, added on last minute, or it just doesn’t feel a part of the game’s world.

So I decided to ask Sam, who’s working on an upcoming game called Where Cards Fall, “How do you learn the rules of the game all while staying in the game’s world?”

With games in particular, there’s a real joy that can come from discovering what they can do and learning for yourself.

People tend to remember things the best when they experience them themselves, when they learn them through some sort of active discovery.

So if we give them too much at the beginning, we’re robbing them of that chance to reward their own curiosity.

So we always want to make sure that they stay curious, that they stay interested throughout the entire experience, and that they have a lot of different moments where they can be rewarded for trying something.

And when they try something and they discover something for the first time, they definitely won’t forget it.

But if we throw up like a tooltip or some way of just making sure that we as the game designers are comfortable knowing that they know something, there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll forget it later on since they didn’t go through the process of learning it themselves.

So when I go into a game for the first time, I want to learn how to navigate the world, if it takes place in a world, as quickly as possible or just how to understand the rules of the game as quickly as possible, but not so quickly that I’m kind of robbed of my curiosity to explore them a little bit further.

So I tend to get a sense for what the game is, and if the game continues to surprise me, I’ll make it through to the finish line.

Wow, that was learning the rules in Where Cards Fall, and that definitely feels a part of the game’s world, and I think everyone can learn from what Sam said about active discovery.

And this is not just for games.

Active discovery is so much better than reading tooltips or chasing a pointing arrow, and to Sam’s point, being told isn’t as much fun or, frankly, effective as discovering something for yourself.

It’s kind of like being told about a vacation versus being on that vacation yourself.

It’s way more fun, and you’re just going to remember it better if you actually go through that experience.

So whether you’re creating an app or a game, aspire to be stunning.

Create beautiful experiences, polish your visual design so it looks and feels just a part of your app or game’s world.

Okay, timeless.

This has been on my mind since talking with Hugo, a sound designer.

Most of you will recognize this.

[ Ringtone ]

I’m always looking for where that phone is.

But what reminded me of this ringtone was this part of the interview.

If we create a ringtone for the new iPhone, then we don’t want it to sound dated after a year, of course.

It should still be a great ringtone after 5 years, and maybe people will still remember it after 10 years.

It was actually this section of the quote that really made me think of timelessness.

You know, it makes sense for a ringtone not to want to sound dated, but this could also apply to your visual and interaction design too.

Hugo used this word “durability” to describe quality during our interview, and I think that’s really great.

If we all aspire to create designs that are just a little bit longer lasting, it not only would save us time and effort now, but it would put us into the right mindset to provide something that we create with the opportunity to be timeless.

This final aspiration really had an impact on me, and it came from my colleague Doug when I asked him, “What makes great app experiences?”

When I think of, like, great app experiences and things that kind of provide something unique and valuable to users, I think a lot of it is the substantial kind of positive effect that it has on the user’s life.

Doug, you nailed it.

Yes, absolutely, apps should provide something unique and valuable, but, actually, it was this part, the positive effect, that really resonated with me.

It made me reassess the apps and games on my phone.

After this interview, I literally scrolled through all of my apps, and I thought, which ones have a positive effect on my life?

You know, wouldn’t it be great if life just had a little more positivity?

So next time you design, strive for simplicity because real life if where we need to be spending our energy.

Aspire to be stunning because we all need a break from chaos, and it’s really nice to escape and experience something beautiful.

Design to be timeless.

Think about how your designs can be good now but also years from now because we could all design to be a little less trendy and definitely more durable.

And finally, think about how you could have a positive impact on people’s lives.

And, you know, this can manifest itself in really different ways depending on your app.

It could be maybe that positivity is being really accurate, or maybe it’s just being super entertaining.

Maybe it’s just making someone’s life or day feel a little bit easier.

I hope that you found some of these thoughts to be as inspiring as I did.

I’m sure you’re thinking now, though, well, sure, this has been mildly inspiring and somewhat educational, but what can I do?

What can I actually take away and apply to my work?

Well, I wanted to know that too.

After talking with so many different people from different backgrounds, I wanted to know what they learned what they learned on the job through their experiences.

So through a series of questions, I uncovered a few tips and techniques that these designers use regularly when designing.

And something important to mention about design before we get started is, yes, design is hard because nobody sets out to create a bad app.

Making great designs is what we all strive for, but let’s be honest.

We don’t always achieve it, and that’s okay because we keep trying and we learn a lot along the way.

Okay, let’s go ahead and hear this first technique, and it really surprised me.

It came up when I was talking with Loic [phonetic], a type designer, and I asked him, “What helps you with your work?”

So in the case of type design, for instance, we’ve developed all kinds of little drawing tricks.

In type design especially, subjectiveness I feel can [inaudible] even more than in other aspects of design because we go to the depth of how the particular curve of, on the shoulder of a lowercase m is, for instance.

And we can have a 10-minute discussion only on that.

But the difficult part is describing what you see in words that the other person is going to understand the way you mean it, and that’s very difficult when you’re talking about shape.

But one way we started doing that with some of my colleagues was basically redrawing the shape we’re looking at with exaggerated features, where we basically kind of make a caricature of what we are seeing.

So if I’m pushing what I’m seeing to the extreme of why I find it ugly or uncomfortable, it’s because it feels like that to me.

And through that drawing, usually the other people can start seeing that much more toned down but existing feature of the design that they weren’t necessarily perceiving before because that’s not what they were looking at.

So it is about trying to make people see the world through your eyes and the other way around, like gaining the ability to see the world through their eyes, so that you can then find that third place that is actually the joint gaze that you have on the world.

And that’s the, that I think to me is the key of a successful collaboration in design is finding that place.

Wow. Before we even dig into this technique, have you thought about type design?

I mean, every single letter that you text, and email, and that you read, that’s been designed, and type designers care so much about detail that they’ve invented ways to communicate about shape when there are no words.

That’s just so cool.

So to Loic’s point, when you’re designing for others, it’s really necessary to see the world through their eyes, and this technique helps achieve that.

So draw caricatures and ask others to do the same.

It’s really the importance of putting yourself in others’ shoes because you can better understand their world.

And this is a great tool for communication if words are not doing it, and it’ll help you understand what others are seeing.

This next technique is going to be unveiled through a story.

Actually, even better, a first job story.

Because you learn a lot on your first job, and they have a huge impact.

So I asked my colleague Doug what he learned at his first design job.

One of the real kind of ahas for me was a question that I got at the Tech Museum from the Head of Design that was essentially, why is this good?

Why is this thing that you just gave me good?

And, you know, my initial reaction was, well, because I think this will be easy for people to do.

And, you know, he responded, like, well, how do you know that?

How do you know that this is going to be easier than the way that we do it now?

And I kind of realized that I didn’t know the answer to that.

And then, I realized what he was really asking is, should we put all of this energy into making the changes that you’re suggesting?

How can we be sure that that’s the right thing to do?

And to answer that question, I opened up it might have been Microsoft Paint [laughs] and I drew a picture, and I took it out onto the museum floor, and basically asked visitors to give me their impression of what they thought they should do based on kind of how I had arranged things on the screen.

So what Doug was talking about here, and he went on to explain, that it was this method of prototyping that helped him answer that question from his boss.

Why should we put energy into your idea?

So what Doug learned at his first design job was that he could not assume that his designs were going to work.

And this actually also came up in my conversation with Gary.

It wasn’t just designed on paper, implemented in code, and sort of assumed that that was going to work.

You can’t just assume from your own experience and through chatting that something’s going to work.

You’ve really got to go out and try it.

And I think this is the part that’s really important not to overlook.

You know, in this case, we are talking about trying designs in context out in the real world to vet solutions to problems, and trying solutions is something that Sam mentioned too.

One of our ethos’s is to solve a problem.

Put it in front of players and see how they react.

See if they’re learning what they need to learn.

And if we need to do more, we’ll do more.

It’s impossible to rush the creative process of making a game because so much of what’s special about the games that you remember are decisions that seem very obvious and very small but take a really, really long time to arrive at.

And you can’t hire more people to get there faster.

You just have to sit with it and continue working on it until the best solutions arise.

So Sam said something here that I want to expand on.

More people are not going to fix a creative problem.

Great artists are patient.

Sometimes you just get writer’s block and there’s no amount of conversation that’s going to fix it, so you have to wait and just let that creative process happen.

And that’s okay.

It’s a part of the process, and sometimes that’s exactly what is needed to produce quality.

So the theme really from these last 3 clips is to go out and try your designs in context with real people.

Show people prototypes and learn from their feedback.

This is a really essential technique to help work through your design decisions.

So we can learn a lot from each other, so I wanted to know what advice would one designer give to another designer.

Learn how to accept, and sort, and prioritize the feedback as it comes in, whether it’s from yourself or from others.

You will learn so much more quickly than if you are defensive and you just, like, buckle down.

I personally struggle with this.

I can almost not help becoming defensive when I hear feedback on a project I’m working on.

It’s like this instinctual reaction, especially if I just spent late nights and weekends working on something.

But still, I know it’s important, but I wanted to know why.

Again, why is it important to be open to feedback?

I think there’s also just a reality, which is after you’ve used your own work for some amount of time, you naturally develop some blind spots.

And that’s where having a really great, collaborative team and people that you trust around you to help critique your work is a really important part of the design process.

So you can get fresh eyes on stuff and trust that people have the good intentions and they’re going to be able to give you great insights of how you can improve.


I’ve been there.

I’ve definitely been too close on a project and lost sight of a big picture or overlooked some detail.

So by being open to feedback, it’s really easy then to have someone else like your team or somebody that you asked a question to give you something, some piece of information that can help you improve your designs.

And I really like that May-Li said this word, “trust,” to trust the people around you.

So be open to feedback.

It makes everything better and just ups the overall quality of design in your work.

So this next technique is more of a mindset, and it came up when I asked Cas, who works on platform patterns, “How do you approach designing for so many people?”

Knowing what you don’t know, in a way.

What I mean is that if you’re looking at these things or if you’re designing for these things, obviously, you have ideas and ways of using a certain device or an app in your own way, in your own environment, in your own habits, and you might know a little bit about how your friends are using it, or how you’ve seen other people use it, or maybe feedback you’re getting, but it’s a really big world, and there’s a lot of people out there, and they all have their own needs, their own habits, their own way of going through life.

And so you have to be very mindful that how you think about things or your opinions are not always, first of all, correct ones, nor the only ones.

I really like how Cas put this at the beginning know that you don’t know.

And he also used this word “modesty” through our conversation.

To be unassuming when you’re designing for so many people.

And that is a really great headspace to be in when you’re approaching design; to be modest and to be mindful.

So how do you help keep people’s experiences top of mind when you’re designing?

So in many ways, I just have to be skeptical and ask questions if the idea in front of me, is that going to work for someone in a wheelchair, for example?

Is that going to work for someone that has never used this app before?

Is it going to work for someone coming from a PC to a Mac?

You just have to ask lots of questions, and it can just start people thinking about, oh, yeah, did I care enough to consider that aspect of it?

Right. So this may seem really simple, but it’s important to ask questions, especially from different perspectives.

That’s going to help you maintain quality throughout your work and keep those other people’s experiences in mind.

So design is a really collaborative process, and there’s a lot that goes into making collaboration work.

At one point or another, we’re all going to start on a new project or a new team, so what helps make that process a little bit easier?

I always like to set expectations upfront.

I just say, hey, this is how I am.

This is how I work.

This is how I communicate.

How do you work?

How do you communicate?

What’s your preferred method of communication?

And by the way, here’s the goals that I think we are working toward.

And here are the things that are important to me.

And please share with me the same for you.

And I’ll always sort of say it with a caveat like, “We’re going to get all this business out of the way, and we’re going to speak very directly about it.”

I know for me, talking about communication can be awkward, but after I tried this technique, I learned that it helps avoid so much drama and confusion.

So talk about communication, especially if you’re working on teams.

Work towards the same goal about creating something great.

So really, these six techniques are all about caring about the other people and having tools to talk about it, and you have to care about other people and put yourself second.

Be mindful of their lives and be modest about your own because we just learned you can’t assume.

You have to go out and try your designs through prototyping and also really remain open to feedback.

That’s essential to making progress in design because, as May-Li said, we all develop blind spots, and we’re not only designing to make progress, but we want to get closer to reaching our own aspirations and our own goals.

So these techniques are used by real designers that I talked to, and they help them go through the process of designing, and it makes their days a little bit easier, so I hope they can help you too.

So after all of these interviews, I learned that quality is the result of time, effort, and care.

It’s considered, it’s crafted, and it means something different to different people.

I also learned that quality impacts our every day, that your intentions are truly felt.

High quality evokes trust, and that’s really important, as well as it has to be earned.

It’s also important to strive for simplicity, to aspire to be stunning, and design to be timeless.

Just think about how your app or game can have a positive impact on people’s lives.

And finally, working towards quality is all about communication, collaboration, and understanding, especially understanding the people you are designing for.

So really, quality is a principle.

It is intentional, and it’s something that you have to ask yourself, what does quality mean to you?

And you need to know your interpretation to go forward, to put in that hard work that meets your expectations and hits your aspirations because, at the end of the day, you’re not designing for you.

You’re designing for other people who are going to use your app or your game.

So make great designs for them.

Now, there are two important statements on quality in great design that stand alone.

These are going to play back to back, and I hope each offers something different that you can take away from today.

Sensing the human behind the experience I think is really an earmark of something great.

A great design is going to be the product of tremendous amount of effort, and creativity, and skill, and [laughs] late nights.

It’s going to seem effortless, and it should hopefully recede in people’s consciousness.

And in a way, I think you’re very aware of an interface which has been poorly designed, and you’re not at all aware of an interface which has been well designed.

So I talked to a lot of people, and I saved something special just for the end.

Since I had the opportunity to talk to so many different designers, I had to ask them onw final question, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted, wondered myself: What are designers’ favorite colors?

Oh, wow.

My favorite color?

I have to say Is there such a thing?

I don’t think so.

I would have said glitter, but it’s not a color.

One of the things that I really love is Tahitian blue.

But colors to me are like moods, and I do not have the same mood every day.

I don’t think I even have the same mood every hour, so.

I really like white.

Is it really a color?

I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it.

My favorite color has been amber.

I mean, lately, it’s been green for some reason.

I don’t know why.

I got to go back on this answer.

Oh, it’s actually Pantone 347.

My favorite color is blue.

Like a happy blue, and blue is, like, always such a color of responsibility, which is, like, so me.

But I just think it’s, like, soft and friendly.

And food that’s pink tastes good.

I’m going to go with red.

Throw out a hex value.

I don’t have a favorite color.

Every color’s great.

[laughs] All right, maybe I’ll just answer for this moment in time.

I don’t wear any green.

My car’s not green.

But I just like the idea of green.

And I can’t pick one because I wouldn’t be able to pick a single musical note, so I’ll use all of them where it makes sense.

I’ll need to check the spec on that, I think.

System blue, of course.


Special thanks to everyone who participated in these interviews.

Thank you all so much.

Have a great WWDC.

Apple, Inc. AAPL
1 Infinite Loop Cupertino CA 95014 US