Even though nobody’s going to see it

“I want it to be as beautiful as possible (…) even though nobody’s going to see it.” Steve Jobs fighting George Crow in 1981 for Mac’s motherboard architecture vs. aesthetics (via Gizmodo).

I wish I could comment on that; but I can hardly find better words to contain today’s Jobs’ key to success.

Most of the comments of the original article are saying aesthetics should obey functionality reasons; but here we are not talking importance but sequence. This way, functionality should subordinate to aesthetics, which is not a contradiction either to common sense nor to engineering strategy.

A system can functionally output only two values, never three: optimum output or not-optimum output. It’s a “go / no go” resolution coming out of a functional system.

Over this functional output, Jobs overlaps aesthetics: each optimum functional result should also and subsequently obey aesthetics criteria, with no exception.

Functionality is a quality without which you’ll never have a system, therefore this system will never possibly be beautiful if it doesn’t exist. As far as you don’t intend art in itself, everything else implies functionality. Each function will grant (or not) to a system the quality of being “optimum” from this function’s respect.

e.g.: A “beautiful phone” is more than just a “beautiful something” because the defining function is “being a phone”. More together, you cannot name any system or device “a phone” unless it functions as a phone. It’s only afterwards the aesthetic attribute is added (to something that was already defined by its functional attribute); therefore “a beautiful phone” has to be a phone first and only then a beautiful phone.

I know the quotes in the original article were made to undergo an argument against Jobs’ “You’re not holding it right”, but I’m pretty sure the man never said: “Make it my way (i.e. beautiful), no matter it doesn’t work”. I guess what happened was a compromise on the verge of “no go” functional decision (we know Jobs is a perfectionist), combined with a laboratory-like testing conditions error (gloves, 3GS case, low humidity etc).

I wish Jobs admits internally this was a mistake. I also wish those lawyers manage to construct a civil case against this “fault” just for the mere exercise of democracy and language: Was it a “fault”? Is it a crime?


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