By Erin Bradner
In Spring 2010, there was an Apple bloom across Autodesk – iPads had sprouted up in conference rooms from San Francisco to Shanghai. Some appeared carefully wrapped in protective cases, some with diminutive keyboards. Many sat atop conference tables unadorned, barely weeks old, occupying the table space and mindshare previously occupied by Macbooks and PCs.
A second bloom happened later that spring when a new variety of iPhone… black, white and now glinting with stainless-steel…began dispersing into the iPhone ecosystem at Autodesk. And just last week I watched the Apple enthusiasts on our user experience team prairie dog across a bay of cubes to chatter excitedly about the iPhone 4 announcement. I also watched those same colleagues hush mournfully, the day Steve Jobs died.
This week I asked my colleagues to tell me how Steve Jobs, via Apple, has influenced design thinking at Autodesk. I’ve compiled some of the responses below. A common thread is that Jobs exerted influence on Autodesk through his courage to re-invent products and re-imagine entire industries. Designers and design leadership at Autodesk have drawn inspiration from his fanatical attention to detail, such as his ability to sell the minutiae of “cut, copy and paste” on the iPhone, and through his consistency in delivering powerful, beautiful technology. Here are their words:
“One comment of Steve Jobs that stuck with me was his advice to “Edit, always,” because while that is easy to say, it is inherently hard to do in business. Businesses are constantly bombarded by opportunities, competitive threats and customer demands and can naturally end up pursuing multiple priorities. Jobs strove to do a few things really well – a smaller set of products, a focused set of principles but then executing them completely.” – Amar Hanspal
"Steve Jobs was a believer of User Experience, not in the traditional practice of the trade but in its essence. He ultimately knew that building a great product was intertwined with the user – their needs and perceptions. He connected not just tasks, error rates, and usability but also emotion and passion to create a powerful legacy." – Julie Schiller
"Steve Jobs wanted to go beyond making products that are useful -- he wanted to make products that reach people on a deeper level, products that people fall in love with. As someone who did 'fall' for Apple products, I know what that experience is like and strive to foster that feeling among users of Autodesk software. Steve Jobs (and his team at Apple) showed many UX professionals at Autodesk, myself included, what a good user experience feels like. This influences the user experience goals for our projects every day." – Edward De Guzman
“Unlike almost any other CEO out there, Steve Jobs had faith in the human experience as a business model. The experience of Apple’s design is what drove profit, not the other way around. He intuitively invested in something that no financial analyst could predict, but only measure afterwards.” – Alison Kather
“Steve Jobs showed to the world how User Experience can make all the difference. His impact is profound as technology companies across the globe have changed their culture to make UX a priority over features and capabilities.” – Ananth Uggirala
“Steve Jobs and Apple’s designs are such a penultimate of achievement that anyone in a design oriented field cannot help but be inspired to follow suit. Their designs being centered on the individual, rather than the company or the project, have helped influence the next generation of design at Autodesk. When working on AutoCAD for Mac, Steve’s reality distortion field helped bring back excitement to an otherwise fairly mature brand.” - Rob Maguire
Autodesk is one of those tech companies whose design culture has evolved thanks to Steve Jobs. It is rare if a week goes by at Autodesk when one of Apple’s innovations isn’t used as a gold standard for user-friendly UI or loyalty-inspiring customer experience. Yesterday in a conference room filled with managers, interaction designers and researchers, we deconstructed the Genius Bar. The experience distilled down to three important elements:
- It’s not a transaction, it’s a relationship: they don’t give you a number as you wait, they call your name instead.
- They are empathetic: the Apple geniuses, not technicians, walk around a bar, not a desk, and stand next to you as they respectfully examine your dead phone or empathetically listen to your wireless networking woes.
- They are empowered to exceed your expectations: they typically solve your problem plus give you something more, something unexpected… an iOS upgrade or even a new laptop.
The Genius Bar, iTunes, iPhone and Macbook each have their fanbase at Autodesk. This month AutoCAD for the Mac celebrates its 1-year birthday. Autodesk has a growing list of Mac and mobile apps for tinkers and seasoned professionals alike. We’ve both drawn inspiration from Apple and are delivering products in partnership with Apple. Our Mac and mobile products aren’t faultless. The products Steve Jobs helped create aren’t faultless either. And their user interfaces aren’t always as intuitive as some in our field might hope. Yet Apple products strike an emotional chord – they deliver experiences that are human, empathetic and that routinely exceed expectations. Nicely done, Steve Jobs.