Be willing to start again

One day, before Apple opened its first store in May 2001, Johnson was riding with Steve Jobs to a weekly planning meeting about the store Johnson was charged with designing. Johnson told his boss, “Steve, I’ve been thinking. I think the store’s organized all wrong. We’ve organized it like a retail store around products, but if Apple’s going to organize around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organized around music, and movies, and things you do,’” Johnson recalls. “And he looked at me and he said, ‘Do you know how big a change that is? I don’t have time to redesign the store.’” Then, 10 minutes later, at the meeting, Johnson recalls, “Steve walks in and the first thing, he looks at the group and he says, ‘Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong.’” Jobs then added ‘And he’s right, so I’m going to leave now and Ron, you work with the team and design the store.’” That lesson, of not doing it fast, but doing it well, “carried through to so many things I’ve done,” Johnson says. “It’s not about speed to market; it’s really about doing your level best.”

Former Apple Retail Chief addressed Stanford’s Graduate School of Business students. It is a great talk, worth watching.

What I am reading today

Style, Story and Inspiration

“Fashion doesn’t save lives, it supports the soul. I don’t care if you buy clothes from me or if you go to a street market and buy a fake copy. The most important thing is that you are inspired by my designs. It’s important to love life, dream, be inspired, inspire others and become interested deeply in something. If you miss these you become a businessman of life. I don’t want to become a businessman. Style is not a question of how much money you have in your purse, it is a state of mind” Giambattistia Valli

Valli is an Italian fashion designer who makes clothes for women, but her suggestion that one should “dress from the heart” as if you are in love is a good yardstick for men as well. I love her concept that style is a story  — where in even the most basic of outfits, or the things you own tell your story. She says, “How can I think about tomorrow if I don’t know what was yesterday?” That is a good advise not just for fashion and clothes, but also on how we design the future here in Silicon Valley. 

What is a Brand

Robert Brunner was director of industrial design at Apple and also a partner at Pentagram. While at Apple and worked on numerous products including the original PowerBook. In 2007, he started Ammunition group, a San Francisco-based design house, which helped design products for companies like Square. 

He was also the chief design officer of Beats Audio, that little headphone company Apple bought for $3.2 billion earlier this year. Brunner was one of the keynote speakers at True Ventures’ True University event where he talked about multiple topics. Here are some standouts from his talk:

  • Relationship between companies and it’s constituents happens through things and how those things make you feel.
  • Design is the interface to the outside world.
  • You don’t own your brand. Brand isn’t your logo. It is not your product, packaging or retail presence. Brand is a feeling. It is what they think, feel about your company. It is something that resonates with people.
  • It’s the idea, not the object. The broader idea of what a phone means to you is really the iPhone.
  • Technology enables, but design establishes.
  • Harley Davidson is a really powerful brand. People tattoo their logos on their bodies, and that is amazing brand affinity. [In comparison, there aren't that many Apple logos tattooed on our bodies.]
  • Money and opportunity are not extraordinary assets. I think raising money doesn’t mean anything in terms of success. Extraordinary assets are having attention, or exceptional people in your organization.
  • Risk is not a four letter word — risk and innovation are closely tied and when you do things for the first time, it is very risky. Avoiding risk is the riskiest thing you can do. Design and risk go hand in hand and if you eliminate the risk, you will do whatever everyone is doing.
  • (For Beats) the product & the brand is the celebrity . That was the genius of Jimmy Iovine.
  • Hiring Diane van Furstenberg to design your product isn’t fashion. Fashion is the tribe you belong to or you aspire to belong to. Google Glass isn’t the tribe you aspire to belong to. (In comparison, Beats by Dre was a tribe a lot of people wanted to be associated with and thus those products are fashionable.)

Brunner also spoke at my Roadmap conference last year. His video from the event is available here

Independence Day

It is funny how a simple piece of paper makes you feel differently about a place, a day and an event. The meaning and context of Independence Day changed for me last August. Today, I am observing my first Independence Day as an American citizen. Happy July 4th, fellow Americans. And let’s remember why we got the independence and the founding values of our great nation.


After Silk Road

An old-fashioned, in-depth article on the rise and fall of Silk Road by Mike Powers, published by Granta Magazine is a must read for anyone with interest in Bitcoin. Powers also wrote a follow up piece on life after Silk Road for The Guardian. On another note, 30,000 Bitcoins seized by FBI as part of the Silk Road bust were auctioned and bought by Tim Draper, a partner with Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a venture capital partnership based in San Francisco Bay Area.

What I am reading today

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