Inside the Apple Factory: Software Design in the Age of Steve Jobs

Ken Kocienda and Frank Chen

Even though hundreds of millions of people use Apple products every single day, very few people have been able to reveal the secrets and the stories behind designing them. But software engineer Ken Kocienda, who worked there in the final years of the Steve Jobs era — “the Golden Age of Apple” — offers an inside look at Apple’s creative process in his widely acclaimed book, Creative Selection. He’s the “Directly Responsible Individual” (more on that title within!) for designing iPhone multi-touch and much more under the watchful eye of Steve Jobs… who, by the way, would have been 64 years old today.

This is an insider’s account of creativity — with lessons for software design and product management for anyone — because it delves into experiments around designing novel user interfaces, as well as the deep questions many companies face around organizing creativity and the creative decision-making process. Especially given a strong leader (and product visionary like Steve Jobs). a16z Deal and Research operating partner Frank Chen — formerly VP of Products and UI Design at HP Software as well as VP of Product Development at a consumer-facing startup before that, and Director of Product Management at Netscape and product manager at Oracle too — interviews Kocienda in this in-depth video interview all about product design.

This conversation is the golden ticket into the Golden Age of design, with lessons for any software developer, product manager, organizational leader, or maker. Enter this video… and feel free to explore the different topics labeled throughout:

  • How Apple thought about open source in 2001
  • The role of demos in Apple’s software development process
  • Career management fork in the road: ship teams or ship products?
  • The Apple notion of a “Directly Responsible Individual”
  • Apple’s extreme secrecy: feature or bug?
  • How the team decided to ship iPhone OS without copy and paste
  • The scariest room in SIlicon Valley: demo’ing to Steve Jobs
  • Was there too much hero worship at Apple?
  • The role of whimsy and playfulness in designing software
  • Did waiting for Steve to make decisions slow decision-making?

Related Stories:

a16z Podcast: The Business of Creativity — Pixar CFO, IPO, and Beyond! (with Lawrence Levy and Sonal Chokshi)

a16z Podcast: Apple and the Case of Invisible But Audible Innovation (with Benedict Evans, Steven Sinofsky, and Kyle Russell)

a16z Podcast: Culture and/of Design (with Luke Wroblewski, Connie Chan, and Sonal Chokshi)

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