It is commonly known that Apple does not use user-centered research to help the Business determine what they should create or do next. They go one better. They build “playing fields” wide enough for people to do as they please.

Apple has recognized what many in the tech industry are still learning: that users are truly at the center of their business. It relies upon millions of hobbyists, developers, and hackers to transform its products from good to great by selling cool and useful apps in the App Store.


This is a big shift from traditional product design strategy. It used to be that the best products—and indeed the best design—were borne of careful research, extensive user testing, and an elite team of skilled designers who knew more than anyone else. That’s still somewhat the case…But given the breakneck pace of technological innovation, even the best in-house talent can’t outpace the collective talent of the Internet. A recent article by Instapaper developer Marco Arment pointed out how Apple itself doesn’t always seem to know what its products will become. Instead, it creates compelling tools and ecosystems and lets developers and users get to work. As long as Apple can supply the best tools, it can effectively crowdsource the details of its market strategy and win, regardless of the outcome.

What is interesting to note is that to create a total product experience, especially in consumer electronics, it is essential that we consider the seamless merging of software and hardware in a way that leverages the best of both worlds. This is easier said than done as both have different development styles and time frames. In the near future, we will have to carefully rethink how we design things, as well as the processes and pathways we will need to take.

So where does this leave design? It’s just as critical as before, but the role of the designer has shifted. The best designs will set the stage but stop short of fully defining the experience. Instead, designers will create open frameworks (with some restrictions) for legions of smart, young things to build the experiences that will ultimately set the best products apart. In that way, designers will continue to become the architects of a vast playground of services that connect people to great ideas, great experiences, and one another.

Image by: net_efekt

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