Can great design kill you?

14 Nov

Apple design is now a universe in itself, Apple’s design philosophy has abundantly earned its own chapter in the history of industrial design.

Steve Job’s observation that design is not just the aesthetics of something, but in how it works, is now the creed for phone, computer and pad designers worldwide.

Layer that with Job’s talent for conceiving and producing things that conventional wisdom thought foolhardy … the iPod in the face of the Sony Walkman, the Macintosh in the face of the ubiquitous PC’s, the iPhone in the face of the Nokia smartphones, the iPad 20 years after Microsoft’s Surface.

Something happens inside you when you pull off that kind of triumph. Something happens inside your head when Andy Grove has to eat his words. Something happens inside your heart when you live to see the vindication of proving the inventors of path-breaking products inadequate in their comprehension of what is possible with their own invention.

Steven Jobs essentially proved that conceiving a product doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to make the most of your own invention.

He reinvented the computer. He reinvented the phone. He reinvented the pad. He left a ding in the dings others made in the universe.

One notable quality of all Apple products? They can’t be opened. Jobs had a clear reason: “Because when people can open it up they screw it up.”

Then he came face-to-face with another invention: the human being. And hubris stepped into the equation: Steven Jobs presumed that the Apple design philosophy would work again.

Diagnosed with cancer, he was advised surgery. The Apple design philosophy kicked in: “I don’t want to be opened up.” Mistake 1.

For 9 months, he disdained treatment, the ‘conventional wisdom’. Mistake 2.

He conjured up his very own personal medicinal Genius Bar: potions and diets. Mistake 3.

This time, “I’ll show you how it should be done.” Did not work.

All that intelligence and wisdom … and he could not make the judgment call that acknowledged he was playing in a different league, that in terms of “how it should work” , he was now out of his depth.

The man who had enough iconoclastic mojo to extrapolate his grasp of what should be done misfired. The courage that crossed technologies, devices and platforms lost track of the fact that he was not the right hardware engineer for his own body.

Now it is being told: that he went through 30 nurses before settling on two… that he ripped off 5 different oxygen masks before he found the ‘right’ one… that he was pointing out potential design improvements in the hospital equipment that was keeping him alive…

Even to the end, that paradigm-shifting design sense did not dim. But every time it comes up, I cannot shake off the gruesome fact that whatever it brought the world in the form of Apple’s fantastic products, it also cost the world Steve Jobs.

2 Responses to “Can great design kill you?”

  1. Karthick Krishnakumar November 14, 2011 at 10:10 PM #

    His designs though would live forever. Man designs are far different from that of Gods i presume that sums up the story with Steve Jobs.

  2. Karthik November 15, 2011 at 10:00 PM #

    We can criticise and scrutinise all we want, but one thing is worth appreciating, according to me: he lived his life the way he wanted; did the things that he wanted to do. It takes a lot of courage and the a powerful ability to ignore the world to do that. I admire him for that.

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