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6 tips to 'Keep it Simple' from Ken Segall, ex Creative Director at Apple

Kirti Punia
13th Feb 2015
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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Ken Segall, Former Creative Director, Apple, shared the power of simple in his talk at the NILF 2015, yesterday. Ken was the Creative Director behind the ‘Think different’ campaign of Apple.

He is a marketing and advertising executive who believes in the power of simple. Throughout his talk, he fondly remembered and shared Steve Jobs thinking, beliefs and ideologies behind keeping everything simple too.

yourstory_Ken_Segall_Simplicity,

To keep it simple for all of you and to try and do justice to Ken’s talk, here are the powerful excerpts:

Simplicity is the biggest power and Apple is proof of it. Steve Jobs was a marketing guy. He never created a product before thinking about how he is going to market it.

I worked eight years at Next and four years at Apple with Steve Jobs, and that’s where I developed the appreciation for simplicity. I have also worked with Dell, IBM, BMW, and Intel. One stark difference was that at all these companies we spent a lot of time trying to do a lot of things, putting a lot of analysis into it but actually less work got done.

I probably have the simplest job. I go around convincing people that simplicity is a good thing. But people are used to complexity. Simplicity works because the world is complicated and when you do something simple, it stands out.

You need a good product with advanced capabilities and high usability, but you need to make that accessible to people in a simple way. And I will share why it is important and how you can achieve simplicity.

  1. Simplicity builds love

Customers love simplicity. Steve always felt that our job is to get people to love Apple. They have to feel an emotional connection with Apple. And it was important for three reasons:

  • If people are attached to Apple, they will keep buying Apple products.
  • If people love Apple, they will tell their friends and family about it. Their friends and families will buy Apple products.
  • Apple will be able to withstand when bad times come. Steve used to believe that someday some unforeseen and uncontrollable bad thing might just happen. And if people love Apple, we can stand through this bad time because they will love Apple even through those times.
  1. Control yourself

It is easy to get carried away. People try to get too many things, too many features in their products. People find it difficult to control and end up creating complicated products for their customers.

“Innovation is saying no to a thousand things.” – Steve Jobs

  1. Do fewer things better

Don’t have too many products. Don’t do too many things. Product proliferation creates complexity.

Dell gives customers 26 laptop choices, HP gives 41. It does too many things and complicates decision for customers. Apple gives its laptop customers very few choices. Only choice one has to make is whether he/she wants a thin one or a little thicker and more powerful one? And Apple makes more money than Dell and HP combined.

Steve’s challenge was that Apple was making 20 distinct products when he came back in 1997. It was complicated. He decided to kill almost our entire product line. He decided that Apple will make only four things – home version and pro version of laptop and desktop – and build them well.

He used to say, “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove.”

  1. Names matter

Names matter and they should be far simpler. To give you an example here are some of the names of HP laptops:

HP Elitebook

Elitebook Folio

Omen

Envy 14

ASUS has taken it a step ahead, and here are some of the names of its laptop models:

ASUS Transformer Book T100TA

K200MA

N550JK

And here are the names from Apple:

MacBook Air

MacBook Pro

iMac

Mac Pro

Everything is a Mac. And it is a brand in itself. People say ‘let me get my Mac’. Nobody says, and I don’t think anybody will say, ‘let me get my ASUS Transformer Book T100TA’ or ‘let me get my K200MA’.

Names matter, a lot.

  1. Keep it small

If anyone exhibited behavior of a big business, Steve would hate it. You weren’t allowed to do fancy presentations or come up with complex processes or just use complex language. He liked working as a small company because it is where he believed things could be simple and something powerful could be created.

He once said, “You know how many committees we have at Apple? Zero. We are organized like a startup. We are the biggest startup on the planet.”

  1. Being simple is not simple

Being complicated is really simple. Don’t do anything and everything will turn complicated. Steve said, and I quote,

“Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it is worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

He was a proponent of simplicity and was against complexity. Simplicity is the ultimate competitive weapon.

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