May 2, 2024
UI/UX Design

What We Learned From Apple’s Design Strategy

Apple is the best source of inspiration for digital designers. Let’s see exactly what lessons we can take from Apple’s UI/UX design and how to apply them.
Gabriel Pana
May 2, 2024
What We Learned From Apple’s UI/UX Design Strategy

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” – Steve Jobs.

Apple has become an example for UI/UX designers. And for a good reason! The quality of their products, their innovative designs, and especially their brand experience only reflect the success oft their design strategy. And the truth is that it’s not just designers who look up to the Apple strategy. Consumers, managers, and even competitors have drawn inspiration from how Apple created its products. 

But that’s only because Steve Jobs has always been ahead of his time right from the beginning: "I want Apple's design to be not just the best in the computer industry, but the best in the world". He understood that functionality might not be enough for the development of a computer. Yes, back then, this might have been enough. 

Jobs recognized that. He realized that creating a relationship between aesthetics and user experience would become the integral component that could differentiate Apple’s products. And he was right! Apple’s emphasis on simplicity and usability not only revolutionized the tech industry but also set an example for all product designs and UI/UX designers. 

Unfortunately, not everyone had the same perspective, including the German designer Hartmut Esslinger. After all, there was still a huge discrepancy between Steve Jobs’ ambition and what was actually possible at the beginning of the ‘80s. And despite his ambition and vision for UI design, it wasn’t really part of the strategic position at Apple. The company was rather focused on developing products but wasn’t also thinking about the products’ overall look and feel. In fact, design was always treated as a secondary concern. 

That’s when the Snow White project began, and Apple started being known for its design-driven products! 

The Rise to Popularity of Apple - Why is Apple UX/UI so good?

Apple’s number of products developed was rising. But there was just one problem: there was no actual coherence between them. So, Apple decided to unify its products through the same design language. And that’s when the strategic design process began – the Snow White project. 

Each product design line was named after the seven dwarfs in Snow White. The PCs were Sneezy, the Macs were Happy, the Printers were Grumpy, and so on. Because of this, each product line began having a coherent system that was later adopted by all their products. From that moment on, Apple marked the shift from creating isolated products to an interconnected ecosystem despite their variety. And while this is a common practice today, it’s all because of Apple’s approach to defining a design language that represents the brand. 

This laid the foundation for the iconic Apple UI/UX design and its recognizable “language”. 

The Snow White project led to the design philosophy that continues to drive Apple’s products and experiences. With the help of Hartmut Esslinger, the tech company followed the famous rules that completely redesigned its brand image:

  • Rooted in human interaction and customer behavior;
  • Maintain thin lines – 2mm in width and 2mm in depth;
  • Strive for symmetry all the time (when possible);
  • Have a signature look – for Apple, it’s a minimalistic design;
  • Create a brand, not just a design. 

Apple is the most popular design-driven company. And that’s all because every pixel, every interaction, and every detail is thoughtfully designed. From their physical appearance to their software interactions. Nothing about Apple UI/UX design is unintentional or accidental. Not even the features that might come across as flawed. Instead, it’s a result of deliberate design choices that have made the company an inspiration for all. 

But it’s not just about having a design strategy. It’s about having a vision! 

Apple wouldn’t have gotten to this point without Steve Jobs’ vision. He saw beyond market research and could anticipate what we would want before we knew it ourselves. That was the core of Apple’s DNA. So, what exactly can we take from the Apple strategy for UI/UX design?

What is Apple's strategy for design?

1. Simple Is Better

Apple’s core design principle is simplicity. But simplicity is more than just their minimalist design and neutral color palette. Yes, Apple’s UI elements go beyond trends – making their design look timeless. 

However, their commitment to simplicity has also extended to the user experience. So, they took simplicity and usability to a whole new level. They removed unnecessary clutter, focusing on clarity and elegance, enhancing overall usability. In other words, their UI/UX design is complex but in a well-designed interface. Remember – less is more!

2. Focus On The User

As UI/UX designers, we unconsciously tend to overcomplicate things for the sole purpose of innovation. But most of the time, the result comes off entirely from what we think. Why? Because our users can’t understand how to use our products. That’s why Apple’s design language explains the importance of adopting a user-centric approach. 

Apple’s success story is, at its core, a lesson in focusing on its users. While innovation is crucial, it should never come at the expense of usability. Because if people don’t know how to use it, we might as well not have it at all. But we must always design with our customers in mind. The ability to empathize with our users and understand their needs makes our product design attractive. And if our UI/UX design can deeply resonate with our market, then we’ve just created a design that could become the next market leader.

3. Be Great, Not Just ‘Good Enough’!

If there’s something that Steve Jobs wanted, it was to strive for exceptional quality. As he said – “I want Apple's design to be not just the best in the computer industry, but the best in the world”. Even when the resources and the mentality were so much different from what it is today. 

So, go beyond what we know. Go beyond market research. Don’t just settle for “good enough”. Unfortunately, even the smallest pixel on your platform can make the difference – in a bad way. So, adopt Steve Jobs’ mindset of continuous improvement and innovation. This is how you build a legacy. 

4. Think About The Future! 

Everything around us is in constant change. Industries are changing. The way we work. The technology we use. So, thinking about the future is not just an option – it has become a must. So, we should always anticipate trends and changes. What works today might become obsolete tomorrow.

What made Apple different from its multiple competitors is its ability to anticipate what we would want before we even knew it ourselves. But they also were able to see a problem that hasn’t been solved and take the matter into their own hands. So, they looked at everyone else around them and did it better, faster, easier, and more efficient! 

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” – Steve Jobs. 

uinkits – Our Figma Design System and UI Kits

We at uinkits understand the importance of inputs in great user experiences and creating amazing UI designs. That’s why we’ve developed a Figma UI Kit with design components that include these essential UI elements that enable you to design intuitive and user-friendly interfaces effortlessly.  

“You press the button, we do the rest,” – Kodak.

Inspired by this iconic tagline from Kodak, we believe in simplifying the design process for you. Our Figma UI Kit, uinkits, is a complete design system with UI components that allows you, as a UI UX designer, to create your products as quickly as pressing a button.

Our design system includes components, icons, variables, cards, buttons, and everything you need for your design process. All you have to do is take your UI design component needed, and you’re ready to use it in your designs!

Gabriel Pana
May 2, 2024

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