Apple’s Design Secret: 10-3-1

Greg Ness  |  March 10, 2008

Michael Lopp, senior engineering manager at Apple, delivered a presentation at the SXSW conference this last week in Austin, Texas that provided a glimpse into that company’s wildly successful design methodology. One of the insights he revealed was a 10 to 3 to 1 process that Apple designers must follow. Helen Walters is at SXSW blogging for Business Week’s Tech Beat and this is how she described 10 to 3 to 1:

“Apple designers come up with 10 entirely different mock ups of any new feature. Not, Lopp said, ‘seven in order to make three look good’, which seems to be a fairly standard practice elsewhere. They’ll take ten, and give themselves room to design without restriction. Later they whittle that number to three, spend more months on those three and then finally end up with one strong decision.”

Walters also reports about Apple’s “Paired Design” meetings. The paired design meetings are actually two weekly meetings. One meeting is pure brainstorming with no constraints, and the second meeting is where designers and engineers get together and have to work things out to integrate design and functionality.

Some may argue the design process Apple uses is too difficult, time-wasting and expense, but it’s difficult to argue with the results.

Posted in: Graphic Design