Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs Book Review

The iPad Keyboard I am using to type this review is a central character of the book Creative

The iPad Keyboard I am using to type this review is a central character of the book Creative Selection. That is an interesting coincidence isn’t it? 

Creative Selection is about Ken Kocienda’s look at Apple’s creative process. He spent 15 years at Apple working on various products like Safari, iPhone and iPad Keyboards. He explains the creative process behind all these products in detail. I liked the detailed explanation of things and his narration style but at times it tends to be a bit dramatic. 

Apple’s focus on demo’s and how it plays a big role internally and externally is interesting. His take on development vs seeing the larger picture is right. Programmers usually pay attention to the parts that didn’t work quite right yet like fixing bugs and pushing for the next improvement. It is quite difficult to maintain a wider perspective in the midst of making. 

Story of the iPhone and iPad keyboard is the best part of this book. Once you finish reading it you can’t look at this keyboard the same way again. You will definitely see why Apple say that they always try to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts.

Overall this is a really good read if you are curious about understanding how products are made in apple. My only complaint is about the over dramatisation of events.

Here is a section of the book talking about how Apple looks at creative decisions.

“it’s crucial to make the right call about whether to use an algorithm or a heuristic in a specific situation. This is why the Google experiment with forty-one shades of blue seems so foreign to me, accustomed as I am to the Apple approach. Google used an A/B test to make a color choice. It used a single predetermined value criterion and defined it like so: The best shade of blue is the one that people clicked most often in the test. This is an algorithm.

At Apple, we never considered the notion of an algorithmically correct color. We used demos to pick colors and animation timings, and we put our faith in our sense of taste. When we went looking for the right “finger movement in accordance with a rule,” as mentioned in the excerpt I included from the ’949 Patent, we made a subjective call. We developed heuristics.

At the same time, we weren’t overly touchy-feely about everything. Creating optimized algorithms was a significant part of developing the software for the iPhone, as it was for making Safari before it. What was important was that there remained a tension and flow between the algorithms[…]”

Excerpt From: Ken Kocienda. “Creative Selection”