Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs

by Ken Kocienda


2020 Dec 13


Hundreds of millions of people use Apple products every day; several thousand work on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California; but only a handful sit at the drawing board. Creative Selection recounts the life of one of the few who worked behind the scenes, a highly-respected software engineer who worked in the final years of the Steve Jobs era—the Golden Age of Apple.

Ken Kocienda offers an inside look at Apple’s creative process. For fifteen years, he was on the ground floor of the company as a specialist, directly responsible for experimenting with novel user interface concepts and writing powerful, easy-to-use software for products including the iPhone, the iPad, and the Safari web browser. His stories explain the symbiotic relationship between software and product development for those who have never dreamed of programming a computer, and reveal what it was like to work on the cutting edge of technology at one of the world’s most admired companies.

Kocienda shares moments of struggle and success, crisis and collaboration, illuminating each with lessons learned over his Apple career. He introduces the essential elements of innovation—inspiration, collaboration, craft, diligence, decisiveness, taste, and empathy—and uses these as a lens through which to understand productive work culture.

An insider’s tale of creativity and innovation at Apple, Creative Selection shows readers how a small group of people developed an evolutionary design model, and how they used this methodology to make groundbreaking and intuitive software which countless millions use every day.

Notes & Highlights

I first encountered the term “signing up” in Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine, a Pulitzer Prize–winning book on the quest to develop a new minicomputer at Data General Corporation in the late 1970s.
…here’s my take on the Apple Way, our recipe for making software for products like Safari, WebKit, iPhone, and iPad, my explanation for how we made great products:
A small group of people built a work culture based on applying the seven essential elements through an ongoing process of creative selection.
Expanded out, it reads like this:
A small group of passionate, talented, imaginative, ingenious, ever-curious people built a work culture based on applying their inspiration and collaboration with diligence, craft, decisiveness, taste, and empathy and, through a lengthy progression of demo-feedback sessions, repeatedly tuned and optimized heuristics and algorithms, persisted through doubts and setbacks, selected the most promising bits of progress at every step, all with the goal of creating the best products possible.

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Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs by Ken Kocienda