I read this interview with Jony Ive today and I was overwhelmed with agreement in something he said:
Why is the competition seemingly unable to keep pace with Apple?:
A: Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us — a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better.
These are wise words. If you want to make something truly good, you must make it truly better. It must be better.
I remember vividly when I was in school studying design, there seemed to be such an overwhelmingly strong drive to differentiate oneself—everyone felt it. The result was that people just were trying to do thing as differently as possible. The result was a lot of weird, (and dare I say…) stupid work being done. I hated it and it is why I withdrew from the program (in my level of involvement, not formally).
The reality is this: change for change’s sake is not progress. Change for the better is. Innovation does not equal change. Innovation equal improvement.
From a business standpoint, change for change’s sake is not profitable. Change for the better is. Innovation does not mean you make more money, necessarily, unless you are making meaningful innovations. Yes gimmicky changes may work for a short time, but not in long-term, substantial ways.
As designers interested in quality work and innovation, this means when we challenge conventions we must always be striving to improve upon them, not merely challenge them. It means when we do something differently, it must be better.