Creative Selection Explores Apple Software Design with Stories on Safari, iPhone and iPad

Today, the book by former Apple engineer Ken Kocienda Creative selection, which covers his career at Apple and information on the company’s software design process, has been released. As an engineer at Apple, Kocienda worked on several large projects including Safari on Mac and touch keyboards on iPhone and iPad. Much of the publicity surrounding the book focuses on Kocienda’s work on the iPhone. However, there is a treasure trove of interesting anecdotes about other products and people that make Creative Selection an engaging read for anyone interested in the creative process and Apple.

Kocienda worked at Apple from 2001 to 2017. However, Creative Selection primarily focuses on its work on Safari, the original iPhone, and to a lesser extent, the iPad. His later work on the Apple Watch, which is mentioned in his bio, is not included.

The book opens with a demo of prototype iPad keyboard layouts that Kocienda gave to Steve Jobs in 2009. It’s stories like these where Creative Selection is at its best. The demonstration took place in a conference room on Apple’s One Infinite Loop campus called Diplomacy, which Kocienda describes as “run down, certainly not the decor you would expect in a company as design-driven as Apple.” It’s a small detail, but an example of Kocienda’s great job in capturing what it was like to demonstrate the software to Jobs.

The episode also puts the book on the path to explaining its title. Software demos play a vital role throughout Creative Selection by providing structure to the design process. Demos are the way engineers and book designers share ideas with their peers and an opportunity to receive feedback allowing the software to evolve iteratively.

The demos don’t tell the whole story though. Kocienda also identifies seven essentials for successful software design – Inspiration, Collaboration, Craft, Diligence, Decisiveness, Taste, and Empathy – which are the lens through which each of her stories is examined. Add to that small teams of very engaged people and you have all of the nested pieces of the puzzle that are woven throughout Kocienda’s tale.

The first half of the book tells about the development of Safari. Kocienda explains how a first demo by Richard Williamson who rigged the Konqueror browser on Mac OS X inspired the team and launched what has become Safari. Along the way, Kocienda explains in plain English the challenge of porting 120,000 lines of Konqueror code to the Mac. For anyone familiar with software development, describing the magnitude of this type of task is unnecessary, but the explanation and the like go a long way in making the book accessible to a wider audience.

The Safari project provides a basis for Kocienda’s assumptions about software design. A small team, drawing on the expertise of each of its members, scanned over 100,000 lines of code with the specific goal of creating a faster browser. This focus, provided by a tenure from Steve Jobs, served as the team’s North Star to keep the project on track. The details of each story are different, but throughout the course of the book the same pattern is repeated over and over again.

Much of the rest of Creative Selection tells the story of the first iPhone with a focus on the development of its onscreen keyboard, which Kocienda was responsible for. Aspects of this story have been told elsewhere, such as Become Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli and Walter Isaacson biography on Jobs, but nowhere is the story told in such detail and clarity, explaining every challenge raised by building a software keyboard.

Through a process of iterative demos, Kocienda refined the iPhone keyboard from an early prototype that included multiple letters per key to what shipped in 2007. Along the way, the feedback loop provided by the demos and by colleagues who used the keyboard every day led to its evolution into a functional product.

Creative Selection is full of great stories, but my favorite part of the book is one of the final chapters called “The Intersection,” in which Kocienda reflects on what Steve Jobs meant when he said Apple was at the intersection. technology and liberal arts. . As Kocienda explains:

Working at the intersection is not just about fine-tuning the details so that an individual icon, animation or sound achieves an aesthetic ideal in isolation. The elements of liberal arts and advanced technology must combine, and the end result can only be judged holistically, by evaluating how the product is suitable for the person.

Kocienda provides three examples of what he means, but my favorite is the story of how Imran Chaudhri demonstrated how direct manipulation of user interfaces with multitouch should work. Chaudhri would take a piece of paper, place it on a table and slide it around the table with his finger proclaiming that multitouch should work just as well. Returning to previous parts of the book, “The Intersection” also revisits the ideas underlying Kocienda’s hypothesis about the elements of successful software design by well synthesizing the stories told and the book’s central message.

Looking at Creative Selection as a whole, the parts that work best are the stories about the products and the people. The lessons on Apple’s software design process were also fun to read, but the flow of the stories at the beginning of the book was too often interrupted to explain how they fit into Kocienda’s conceptual framework of how design works. software at Apple. I would have preferred a cleaner style of memory in the early parts of the book that didn’t remind me over and over again of the lessons I should learn from the stories. The lessons are so well covered in the later chapters, that I wondered if a more subtle foreshadowing of them in the earlier chapters would have been more effective.

I’m not a fan of the Creative Selection scene illustrations either. With the exception of the smaller illustrations that illustrate programming and design, they don’t add anything to the narrative but thankfully they don’t take it away in any meaningful way either.

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed Creative Selection and recommend it. The book fits squarely into a space of creative productivity that I, and I expect many MacStories readers to find, find fascinating. Beyond just providing fun insider stories about the products we use every day, Kocienda has managed to pinpoint some fundamental elements that contribute to Apple’s success that are also valuable lessons for anyone involved. in creative endeavors, whether in a large company like Apple. .

Creative selection is available in iBooks and on Amazon.


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