The University of Montana

Opposite approaches to design

In Innovation, Leadership and Management, Strategy on January 28, 2010 at 9:59 am

There’s no contrast quite like Apple’s approach to design vs. Microsoft’s approach to design.

Apple’s Steve Jobs introduced the world to iPad yesterday. The presentation opened with this quote from the Wall Street Journal: “Last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.”

Harvard Business Review blogger Roberto Verganti says the hype is validation of Apple’s innovation process.

“Insights do not move from users to Apple but the other way around. More than Apple listening to us, it’s us who listen to Apple,” he explains.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is running an ad campaign for Windows 7 in which one ordinary computer user after another tells us: “I’m a PC, and Windows 7 was my idea.”

Microsoft’s user-centered approach to design produces safe, incremental improvements. Apple’s visionary approach to design produces breakthrough innovations with occasional spectacular failures.

I have a choice to make as I start to design the next IT website.

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  1. Microsoft’s design is a black box where users toss in suggestions and something approximating them comes out, producing glaring oversights like the recently discovered IE6 zero-day flaw. If you’re looking for design truly driven by the community, you have to look to free and open source software.

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