'Creative Selection' Offers a Behind-the-Scenes Look Into Some Key Moments in Apple's Design History

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  1. MacRumors macrumors bot

    MacRumors

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    Former Apple software engineer Ken Kocienda is releasing a new book entitled Creative Selection today, presenting a look inside Apple's design process through his involvement with a few key features across a variety of platforms and devices. I've had an opportunity to read through the book ahead of its debut, and it offers an interesting perspective on how Apple develops and refines features through an iterative process Kocienda terms "creative selection."

    Kocienda, who joined Apple in 2001 and spent 15 years with the company, identifies seven "elements" he deems essential to Apple's success in software development, including inspiration, collaboration, craft, diligence, decisiveness, taste, and empathy. He delves a bit into how each of these elements contributes toward Apple's relentless pursuit of innovative ideas and solutions that end up being intuitive and useful to Apple's customers.

    The process of creative selection is the overarching strategy for Apple's engineers, with small teams highly focused on rapid-fire demos of their work that allow the engineers to quickly iterate on their ideas and designs, saving the best elements of each iteration to rapidly reach levels of refinement required for Apple's final product releases.

    Back in 2001, Kocienda was part of a team from former Apple engineer Andy Hertzfeld's software company Eazel that went defunct. Following Eazel's shutdown, Kocienda and Don Melton were hired on at Apple to develop Safari for Mac, and a number of other Eazel engineers ultimately joined them on the project. But in the first days of Apple's web browser project, it was Kocienda and Melton who got the ball rolling by trying to figure out how to port Mozilla to Mac OS X.

    In Creative Selection, Kocienda spends several chapters walking through those difficult first steps, the inspiration of Richard Williamson to build Safari based on the lean and nimble Konqueror browser rather than Mozilla, and the Safari team's relentless effort toward building out a working web browser with an obsessive focus on speed.
    Once Safari launched, Kocienda shifted to a project to bring WebKit-based rich email editing to Apple's Mail app, and he details the lengths he went to in order to make insertion point cursor placement behave properly, a feature that's more complicated than one might think.

    Following a brief stint as a manager of Apple's Sync Services team for cloud data synchronization in which he found the job wasn't for him, Kocienda in mid-2005 boldly threatened to quit and perhaps move to Google if he couldn't be switched to a new role on the "new super-secret project" that was rumored within the company. He soon found himself interviewing with Scott Forstall, who invited him to join Project Purple, the effort to build the iPhone.

    Kocienda's key contribution to Project Purple was the development of the autocorrect keyboard, and he walks through Apple's early efforts to figure out how a keyboard could work on the small screen of the iPhone. As the keyboard quickly became a roadblock for the iPhone's software design, the entire fifteen-person team was tasked with developing concepts. In demos for Forstall, Kocienda's early idea of large keys preserving the QWERTY layout but with multiple letters per key and a dictionary used to predict which word the user was trying to type won out and he was placed in charge of keyboard development.

    That was of course just the start of the keyboard project for Kocienda, and he walks through the evolution of the design, the trials and tribulations of building a comprehensive dictionary to drive the autocorrect functionality, and the decision to ultimately go back to single-letter keys with algorithms for key prediction and autocorrect.

    Through all of this, Kocienda had never seen the design of the actual iPhone, as hardware design was completely separate from software and his team had been using "Wallaby" prototype devices tethered to Macs as their software development and testing platforms. It wasn't until late 2006 that Kocienda got his first look at the actual iPhone Steve Jobs would show off just a few weeks later at Macworld Expo.
    Kocienda never had the opportunity to demo any of his iPhone work directly to Steve Jobs, but he did get that chance several times during his subsequent work on the iPad's software keyboard. Kocienda shares the experience of that demo in the very first chapter of his book, describing how he was initially planning to offer users the ability to choose between a Mac-like keyboard layout with smaller keys and a scaled-up iPhone-like keyboard with larger keys more similar in size to physical keys.
    Overall, Creative Selection is a worthy read, focusing on a few detailed anecdotes that provide a terrific inside look at Apple's design process. Given Apple's size and the way the company compartmentalizes its projects, Kocienda doesn't necessarily have a high-level view of things, but he does a good job drawing on his experiences to discuss his individual philosophy and that of the teams he worked with, extrapolating that to the unspoken criteria used across the company to drive the creative selection process that has yielded the products and features we've all come to know.

    Creative Selection is available now from Amazon, the iBooks Store, and other retailers.

    Article Link: 'Creative Selection' Offers a Behind-the-Scenes Look Into Some Key Moments in Apple's Design History
     
  2. AnonMac50 macrumors 65816

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    That article is an interesting read, I think I might try to find a copy to buy:D
     
  3. keysofanxiety macrumors G3

    keysofanxiety

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    #3
    That story of the iPhone keyboard is great. Written very engagingly. Might have to give this book a read.
     
  4. Logic368 macrumors member

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    #4
    The keyboard essentially hasn’t changed in 10 years. You’d think that the autocorrect would be more knowledgeable of brand names by now.
     
  5. dilbert99 macrumors 68000

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    #5
    Some key moments - thinner, thinner, take things out, thinner, take more things out and use copious amounts of glue, take more things out, thinner, keep design same for 4 years (iPhone 6, 6s, 7, 8) :D
     
  6. Quu macrumors 68030

    Quu

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    It's amazing what they accomplished with the iPhone and iPad. I was an Apple user before the iPhone unveil and like many I had owned an iPod, the original fat one with the shiny mirror steel case.

    I never thought Apple entering the phone sphere would be able to do anything different. I remember the rumours that they were working on a phone, I remember someone passionately asking Steve Jobs in a Q&A please make a phone! and he demurred all the while knowing they were in-fact working on the iPhone.

    I remember the Motorola Rokr.. god awful that thing was. Seeing how far ahead the iPhone was software wise, it really was a generational leap and it's wonderful reading the stories from the engineers who worked on it.

    It's amazing how much effort was put into making the keyboard usable. Something we all just take for granted but it's a fundamental piece of the phone that if they didn't get right could have caused the iPhone to flop and change the course of the smartphone entirely.
     
  7. Relentless Power, Sep 4, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2018

    Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    Because, all of the smart phone competitors were so much creative over the iPhone and drastic in their design changes Over the years? You can’t just pick on the iPhone without looking at the smart phone era as a whole.

    But in retrospect, if you look at the actual iPhone X years ago to where it is today, it is astonishing to see all the changes to technology that is included in the iPhone there’s more powerful than a desktop computer that was 10 years ago.

    Also, To be more specific, there were design elements and cues that were changed with the iPhone models 6/6/7/8 with the dual camera, introduction of the haptic home button, stereo Grill speaker implementation, elimination of the 3.5 Jack, ect.
     
  8. Piggie macrumors G3

    Piggie

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    No it's not, unless you are trying to compare a top of the line £1000+ iPhone to some low end old machine.

    The speed of phones is very misleading now due to the OS they are running, and how the software is painstakingly tuned to the hardware to give this apparent speed.

    Stick a general purpose OS on an iPhone, such as OSX or Windows, and then run the benchmarks, and let's see just how powerful these arm chips are.

    I'm not being negative nor am I being a hater. I love how we can carry such amazing devices around these days.
    But I'm also realistic as to it's easy to look fast when you are not doing the same thing.
     
  9. Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

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    What else would I be comparing? Of course its a ‘top of the line’ X or iPhone 8 (Which both acquire the same A11 processor) to a desktop ten years ago, I would gladly resort to using an iPhone in terms of achieving a quicker result with productivity depending on the usage of coarse. Point is, The processing power these smart phones have today is fairly incredible to what computers were 10 years ago in terms of speed, and over all ease of use with navigation.
     
  10. dilbert99 macrumors 68000

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    #10
    Well this article was about design and Apple did make leaps and bounds but recently I feel they have stagnated. Yes, Apple does make a great looking laptop compared to most of the competition.
    I just see it as the same old shell.

    Elimination of the headphone jack just smacks of inability to design. Wouldn't it be great if we could get rid of the headphone jack, that would give us more space to make it easier to fit things in. Who cares if it inconveniences millions of people. Then to sell that as needing space and waterproofing is simply arrogant and untruthful. They did this for their convenience and the bottom line.
     
  11. L-Viz macrumors 6502

    L-Viz

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    Apple had a wonderful design history, until he said: "Screw them, I will make the small sized SE and the Mac mini history!"
     
  12. Rogifan macrumors Core

    Rogifan

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    #12
    Apple Insider interviewed him on one of their recent podcasts. Good interview. He only left Apple recently, for personal reasons.
     
  13. Bacillus, Sep 4, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018

    Bacillus macrumors 68020

    Bacillus

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    #13
    That was a year ago.
    By now, the competition has taken over design & configurability.
    Cook & the Cookettes have definitely and completely spoiled Apple’s competitive advantage. Too sad nobody annihilated him in time. But let’s celebrate history - that’s what generates attention in the former Mac community.
     
  14. Delgibbons macrumors 6502a

    Delgibbons

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    Current design standards don't live up to the history of the company imho.....

    92c.jpg
     
  15. BruceEBonus macrumors 65816

    BruceEBonus

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    I fully agree. But then if your shares value went up and up regardless of these facts would you bother to waste cash on bringing out innovative stuff? Apple now succeeds not on what they are. But what they were.
     
  16. JosephAW macrumors 68000

    JosephAW

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    It's funny there's an article about the keyboard. I just recently reset my keyboard dictionary because the predictive touch type for each letter is often getting it wrong and choosing a nearby letter even when I press exactly on the letter I want and have to roll my finger around or edit or backspace to correct.
     
  17. kasakka macrumors 68020

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    #17
    How do you reset it? The one on my iPad often offers some wonky options and has a hard time remembering some specific words. For example if I type "fx" as in "effects" it always tries to correct it to "fox" no matter how many times I correct it back to fx.

    In fact I'm pretty disappointed with the stock iOS keyboard. It hasn't improved much over the years. It stops offering prediction in things like search boxes and still does not support prediction for Finnish. I have to use Swiftkey for that and even that is worse on iOS compared to Android. On Android every keyboard I've tried has supported Finnish just fine.
     
  18. AnonMac50 macrumors 65816

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    #18
    System->General->Reset->Reset keyboard dictionary. I have to do it every once in a while on my phones.
     
  19. saudade macrumors 6502

    saudade

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    #19
    What is wrong with these designs?
     
  20. Corsig macrumors regular

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    #20
    I think I'd actually be into reading the behind the scenes look into all these features we take for granted. I bet most of us can't even fathom the amount of time and thought behind these things.
     
  21. ChrisCW11 macrumors 65816

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    #21
    I wouldn't use Apple's design and implementation of a auto-correcting on-screen keyboard as a shining moment in Apple's history, even today. I can agree the iPhone changed and improved a lot of the features of mobile devices forever, but their on-screen keyboard wasn't one of them.
     
  22. GaryMumford macrumors regular

    GaryMumford

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    #22
    yep. can't argue with those... especially charging that mouse.
     
  23. Rogifan macrumors Core

    Rogifan

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    #23
    Because you’re not supposed to be charging the mouse while using it. You don’t have to flip it over to charge it. You could lay it on its side. Of course that picture looks the worst which is why people use it. Same with the Apple Pencil sticking out of the iPad. Still photo of it looks terrible yet every time I’ve shown someone I can just stick the pencil in the lightning port to quickly recharge when low they thought it was the coolest idea. Of course the pencil isn’t in there very long it’s just to top off.
     
  24. testcard macrumors 68040

    testcard

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    #24
    Great review! Definitely a book for my Kindle shortlist.
     
  25. GaryMumford macrumors regular

    GaryMumford

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    #25
    Yes, I have this mouse my work and at home. I know it only takes a short while to charge, but it always seems to be right at a really inconvenient moment. it would be so much better if the port was at the front so it can be used while charging. Just my opinion... I'm so inpatient!
     

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