If Steve Jobs was the heart of Apple, Jony Ive was the soul. Few people fully understand and appreciate the role Ive has played at Apple for almost a quarter of a century. The fact that Ive is one of the most quiet and private people, much the opposite of Jobs, only adds to the mystery of Apple’s most valuable designer. When I saw that Leander Kahney published a biography about Ive, I knew I had to read more about this giant in the world of design.

Unfortunately, because of his inclination towards privacy and reluctance to disclose personal matters in interviews, it is hard to call it a true biography of Jony Ive—especially when compared to tome Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. It is more of a glimpse behind the curtain of Apple and its design thinking and process through the eyes of colleagues who worked closely with Ive.

It catalogues his upbringing, exposure to industrial design, and education through college. It flies through award after award Ive won during that time and the foundational pieces that formed his and Apple’s future design language. It follows his years at an industrial design start-up and the road that led him to Apple.

The most interesting parts of the book center around the products—because Apple is, in fact, in the product creation business. Kahney, through interviews on and off the record with key Apple employees (current and former), takes the reader through the design process of their favorite Apple products from the iMac to the iPad. All of their stories retold from the perspective of the designer who shaped their evolution. You are given glimpses of successes of Ive’s career (iMac, iPod, iPhone) as well as failures (Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh, Power Mac G4 Cube), but everything points to the “why” behind Ive’s thinking.

As a designer myself, I found it fascinating to see the evolution of Ive’s thinking. Ideas he thought of in college somehow made their way back to designs 25 years later. The way he handled presenting new products to Steve Jobs evolved until he really began to shape the DNA of the products Apple made. The way IDg (Industrial Design Group) pushed the boundaries on technology by using materials never used before on computers where software hadn’t even been written yet. All a tribute to Jony Ive’s leadership and guidance to always push the envelope and make the best next product.

If you’re looking for a biography on arguably the modern world’s most influential designer, this book will not help. In fact, you will probably never get that book while Jony Ive is still alive. But, if you are looking for a book that will give you a different perspective on the story of the products so many people love from the eyes of the people who dreamed them up and created them under the leadership of the most influential designers of the modern world, then you might just find this book as engaging as I did.

While Steve Jobs’ death might have caused momentary heart-attack for those on the outside of Apple leaving them wondering what would happen when the most important individual would no longer be leading the charge, the soul of Apple continued to do what he always had done: design beautiful products for the world to love.


For the past year I have been a Fellow (read: intern) at GiANT Impact. My job has been to be the internal graphic designer for both of the brands we steward—Catalyst and Leadercast. From day one I knew this would not be like most internships, especially like those in the creative industry. I wouldn’t be getting coffee, picking up dry-cleaning, reading through reports my boss didn’t have time for, or making supply runs to Costco every other week. The projects I would be working on were not just portfolio padders but real projects for real events. What I did and how I did it mattered.

I know most internships are not like this. You either shadow someone who is doing the job you want to eventually do or you are given menial tasks and minimal autonomy to carry out orders. In short, most internships are grunt work, plain and simple.

And, to be honest, it doesn’t help anyone. Sure, the company benefits but the individual who is doing the work is learning very little about how to actually do the work and be successful at what they want to do. It’s not setting them up for success or even equipping them with the skills to land a full-time job.

Thankfully, my internship has done quite the opposite. I have been given responsibility, coached through transition, and set up for success in future work. I have learned there are tangible ways employers can utilize interns, maximize their time, and set them up for success in the future.

1. Set Them Up to Succeed You

If you withhold information, knowledge, or opportunities because you are afraid they will take your job, you are not a leader. Your job is to prepare them to leave the internship better equipped to do their job—whether that is at your company or another. Set them up for success wherever they decide to.

2. Coach Them Up

Look for moments to coach them in better business practices or strategies rather than jumping down their throat about what they did wrong. It doesn’t mean let them avoid consequences, it means being mindful of teaching scenarios that can grow them as a person too.

3. Allow Them to Fail Forward

Good interns want to learn which means they will make mistakes. Give them opportunities to fail forward. Invaluable experience is gained when you take risks knowing you have someone in your corner who is on your side.

4. Give Them the Right Amount of Responsibility

Some interns find their niche and take everything that comes their way in stride. Identify these tendencies and begin to add a little more responsibility to their plate when you can. The confidence you show will encourage them to rise to the challenge and work even harder.

5. Invest in Them

Most interns are temporary labor. They will only be at the company a short time until they have to go back to school or move on to another job. While that sounds like an excuse to not make time, it actually means you should make more of an effort. What if they end up sticking around? If they do, it probably would be less awkward if you took an interest earlier rather than later.

6. Invite Them into the Inner Circle

Nothing makes someone feel more important than being “called-up-to-the-big-leagues.” Even if you’re just riding the bench. If you really want to set them up for success in their future, invite them into meetings where they can learn the reasons why decisions are made.

7. Ask What They Think

New faces mean fresh ideas. In a department that might be operating on the same system for the last few years, a new voice might offer fresh insight and help solve stale problems others couldn’t quite seem to figure out. Doesn’t mean they’ll get it right every time, but they will feel like they matter when it is clear their ideas are valued.

8. Stop Treating Them Like Interns

Don’t talk about them like they’re not in the room. Don’t make sarcastic remarks when they ask uninformed questions. Don’t belittle them in front of coworkers. Praise them publicly every chance you get. Speak highly of them to superiors of their work. Brag on them in front of other employees. Interns, even if they are at the bottom of the corporate food chain, are people and have feelings too.

Internships have become industry standards, but they don’t all have to be that bad. I’m grateful to have found a company that practices these eight things and more. No company is perfect, but if you treat your interns with a little more respect and attempt any handful of the suggestions above, you will begin to have more interns who desire to stay on not because it’s just a job, but because they feel like they actually belong.

Sometimes it’s really hard to write.

If you’ve ever sat down and had to write a paper for school, blog post for work, or even just an email you know what I’m talking about.

The cursor just blinking back at you. Mocking your very existence as you try to formulate words that sum up your jumbled up mess of thoughts or feelings.

It’s actually a very intimidating task; at least, it is for me.

Maybe it’s of the perfectionist streak in me that wants everything to be just right before I push the “Publish” button. Maybe it’s the fear of being judged by my incomplete thoughts and incoherent ramblings. Maybe it’s the insecurity of wondering whether what I write will actually have an impact on anyone else than the one who is writing.

The more and more I write consistently, the more I come up against this road block. The tension between churning out something that’s crafted and thought-provoking or just spilling thoughts and feelings onto the blank page.

Most of the time it is some weird combination of both.

Because every time I sit down to write it ends up being a therapy session for this inner dialogue going on in my head. It’s like writing the words down is the only way to bring order to the chaos of ideas that race through my mind on an all too often basis. It brings a sense of clarity, calm, and purpose as each sentence is pulled out and put on the page.

It just makes sense.

Maybe that’s just what writing is for me: a way to untangle the mess and give structure to the loose bits of random thoughts that occupy my mind. Some write to express themselves; I don’t think this is expression as much as it is condensing. Some write to teach others; I don’t think this is teaching as it is synthesizing. Some write to share their opinion with others; I don’t think opinions are helpful without first framing a perspective.

All that to say, I think my writing is some odd form of processing ideas, concepts, and thoughts into coherent understanding so I might be able to accurately communicate my thoughts and feelings.

And that is terrifyingly difficult to do time and time again.

It means you’re vulnerable. It means your honest. It means your messy. It means your rough around the edges. It means you fail. It means you use the space bar more than the delete key.

To be honest, this post was more about expressing thoughts and sentiments around the idea of what it means for me to write and less about a polished set of ideals I ascribe to in order to write. I didn’t carefully edit this post; I only erased spelling errors and word-choice changes. It was just an outflowing of my random thoughts on what it means for me to write.

Sure, it can easily turn into a stream of consciousness essay or a therapy session, but that’s what makes it so damn difficult: writing has this strange mind of its own.

You can start with one conclusion in mind and end up somewhere completely different with no clue how you got there.

I blame the blinking cursor.

One of the examples Simon Sinek almost overuses in Start with Why is Apple.

The reason why he uses is them is because they are an absolutely brilliant example of the Golden Circle. In various chapters he points to how their WHY has been engrained in their company since the first days Wozniak and Jobs worked in Jobs’ garage. Apple’s WHY was to challenge the status quo and inspire others to think differently. They started by making computers that reflected that, but over the decades their reach has revolutionized many other markets.

One of the keys, Sinek argues, to a successful company is a CEO that embodies the WHY of the company. They have to be the visionary that naturally exudes the qualities your product or service provides. They become the physical manifestation of the WHY. They draw in customers with their passion but they also inspire employees with their vision.

This was Steve Jobs for Apple.

If you have read anything about him from his time at Apple—pre-1985 or post-1997—Jobs was the visionary at the helm that made Apple what it was and is. He was the embodiment of the Apple mentality. Steve Jobs equalled Apple, and visa versa.

Until his death in 2011.

Analysts, shareholders, and Apple fans all wondered who would step into the shoes their mythologized founder left. Who would fill the “One more thing…” hole in presentations.

Enter Tim Cook.

I remember articles and blogs written comparing Cook and Jobs once it was announced he would be taking the reigns permanently as CEO. They could not be more polar opposites. Jobs was erratic, charismatic, and borderline maniacal at times; Cook was collected, genial, and soft-spoken—at least in the public eye. These two stark contrasts did not sit well with me then, and I wasn’t sure why until I read Start with Why and began to understand the principle job of a successful CEO.

Cook doesn’t embody Apple.

Granted, there will never be another Steve Jobs. Period. No one will ever be able to do what he did ever again. But Cook does not embody the rebellious attitude that has become synonymous with Apple’s products. Based on some of Sinek’s arguments and examples, this does not bode well for Apple’s future.

This doesn’t mean everything will be derailed and the company is going down the tubes. Most companies can ride the wave of their founder’s passing for some time after their departure, but having someone at the helm that doesn’t naturally portray the WHY of your company takes a whole lot of extra effort… and it hasn’t worked out well for Apple in the past (see John Sculley).

I’ve been skeptical, like many other Apple analysts and fans recently, of the future as each “new” product has appeared to be an evolutionary design rather than a revolutionary design. Whether the innovation has dissipated slowly or we’re just in the holding pattern for the next market to be overhauled, time will only tell.

But I read an article that gave me a glimpse of hope recently from BusinessWeek.

Amidst the talk of dollar signs and projected earnings, shareholders reaffirmed their faith in CEO Tim Cook and the direction he is taking the company by approving the board of directors once again and other decisions. In a year where Apple is the world’s most valuable company yet also recording a drop in profit last fiscal year, the support didn’t make complete sense to me but it wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary.

That was until I read a quote from Cook when asked about having a vision like Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerburg to connect every human to the internet. He responded with, “Many companies sell futures. I’m not saying companies that do that are right or wrong. It’s just not who we are.”

And that’s when I realized the CEO of Apple gets Apple. He might not be the same kind of rebellious Steve Jobs was, but Tim Cook is rebellious in his own way… all the way to the core.

I recently read Start with Why by Simon Sinek (review here). His major concept of “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” really struck home as an advertising and brand-centric mind. But as I was reading I thought through so much more.

One of the ideas I am still chewing on is the relationship of the WHY, HOW, and WHAT in organizational structure.

Sinek suggests that the CEO is the responsible for the WHY in the organization. He/She is responsible for clearly communicating and reminding those who work under him/her of the WHY the company is doing what it is doing. If they are not effectively casting vision, clarifying the wins, and reminding everyone of WHY then everyone else in the organization can lose sight of the WHY and it becomes fuzzy.

This job makes sense to me. Why? Because most CEOs are dreamers. They are people who have a huge picture in their head and want to connect people to make that picture a reality. They do not have all the tools necessary to make it happen, otherwise they wouldn’t need a team and could do it on their own.

But they do need a team. They need a team that will help think through the HOW.

This is the first line of management. In some companies the HOW is made up of other “C-level” management while in others these are mid-level managers. Regardless of how the structure looks, the HOW is responsible for translating the vision into practical tasks to accomplish the vision of the WHY.

This means creating the systems and processes for the WHAT to do their jobs so the company continues to function like the well-oiled machine it should be. The WHAT are most employees at companies. They are responsible for the day-to-day tasks, execute the plan, and move the company forward.

Everyone has a role. Everyone is part of the process. Everyone can’t be the WHY otherwise nothing would get done. Everyone can’t be the WHAT otherwise the vision and direction would get lost.

The key is learning your role, and here’s what I’ve learned:

I’m not a WHY.

I’m too much of a realist to be able to think up new visions and dreams to drive a company. While I have the creative capacity, I lack the imagination and optimism that is usually associated with good WHYs.

I’m a HOW.

I think in systems, processes, and strategies. I get excited about planning, trying to find all the pieces to the puzzle and assembling them; it energizes me.

But, right now I’m a WHAT.

My position requires me to do daily tasks to help move the ball down the field for the rest of the company. I don’t have the influence to leverage my voice in the decision-making process right now. I am more task-oriented in my job than planning-oriented. I do more of the practical rather than strategic.

And that is okay.

Being a WHAT is not a problem; it is actually a strategic advantage. The more you can familiarize yourself with the inter-workings of the majority of a company or process, the more informed you will be once you become the HOW. Too many management-level bosses run into issues because they have lost touch with the people who routinely carry out the decisions they make. They can lose sight that each choice has a repercussion and effect on someone directly.

And that is a problem. One I hope to avoid making as much as possible.

Which is why I am perfectly content being a WHAT until the opportunity to be a HOW serving under a WHY presents itself.

I first heard of Simon Sinek at a meeting for a campaign I was helping run. The campaign manager referenced a TED talk by him and said that his talk would be the basis for our ticket and platform. The statement was simple: people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. Sinek’s TED talk fundamentally changed the way I viewed marketing and advertising. No longer was selling the WHAT my goal, but it was selling the WHY.

If you haven’t watched the video, I would strongly recommend it before reading any further. It is the best 15-minute synopsis of a concept that is simple yet complex. The concept caught fire and the talk became the most viewed talk on the TED website to date. Because of the concept’s success, Sinek penned a book that expounded on the idea, and, thus, Start with Why was born.

Start with Why centers around the idea of the Golden Circle (pictured below).

Simon Sinek uses the Gold Circle principle as a foundation for why companies are great and inspire people.

He argues that most companies start outside and work their way inside when selling, marketing, or advertising. They start with the WHAT: the price, the new features, the differences between their product and a competitor. Then, they move to the HOW: the reasons their WHAT is superior or better based on their systems, processes, or outcomes. Then, if they are lucky, they land on the WHY they do what they do, but often it’s fuzzy and unclear what exactly the WHY is.

Sinek suggests that the great companies of the day actually do the process backwards. They start with WHY, then their HOW proves their WHY, and the WHAT is tangible product or service that is the natural result of the process.

One of the examples he uses over and over again is Apple. He puts forth that Apple’s WHY is to “Think Different.” It embodies the culture and mindset of what Apple is. Apple wants to be the company that challenges the status quo and inspires others to do so as well. How do they do that? By a list of values and standards that is seen in every single product: beautifully designed, simplistic in nature, and friendly for everyone. So now the WHAT? Apple started with computers, but over the years have expanded their WHAT to include phones, mp3 players, and TV components. The reason they can do this while still maintaining such a cohesive brand is because all of their products flow from their WHY: to challenge the status quo and inspire others to do the same. The Apple II did just that. So did the Macintosh. So did the iPod. So did the iPhone. Each product is infused with their WHY.

Sinek argues that if you filter everything through your WHY you will begin connect on a deeper level with customers beyond just a transaction. It creates a deep sense of brand loyalty not just repeat customers. You begin to get customers who tattoo your logo on their body, collect untold amounts of merchandise, and become unofficial brand representatives to all of their friends. Why? Because your brand is more than just the WHAT they buy; it resonates with something deeper in their being and WHY that matters.

But he doesn’t stop at the customer. He goes as far as to say that companies should hire based on very similar principles. Gone are the days where the hiring process needs to just fill an open slot. Companies should be on the look out for people who naturally line up with their WHY. If you can find someone who connects with your WHY, they become natural ambassadors because they love the WHAT for the same reasons you love the WHAT: the WHY.

But it continues to higher levels of the company as well. Sinek proposes the CEOs of the greatest companies embody their brands. Steve Jobs was the incarnation of Apple’s WHY. Bill Gates personified the early WHY of Microsoft. Howard Schultz was the DNA of what made Starbucks Starbucks. A CEO has to embody the WHY and cast vision for others to follow. If they do not, no matter how financially successful they might be in the short-term, they will not be a long-term fit in that company culture (example: John Sculley as CEO of Apple after Steve Jobs).

What Simon Sinek methodically lays out chapter after chapter is that great companies have their WHY touch everything they do. From the way their CEO leads meetings to product packaging on store shelves, it all reflects their WHY clearly and concisely. No matter where you are in the process, you are consciously or subconsciously exposed to the WHY. Some of those WHYs resonate at a deeper level with us which is why some develop a cult-like following of fans.

The difficult part of this whole process is the WHY for most companies is fuzzy. It was once clear, but it no longer is. Maybe it was clear for you when your business was still in “start-up” mode. Maybe it was easy to define while the founder was still alive. Maybe it was simpler when shareholders didn’t dictate the important decisions. If it is not closely guarded and strategically positioned in everything you do, the WHY can slowly fade and disappear. Without noticing, you begin to focus on all the WHATs (price, upgrades, features, sales, etc.) rather than the WHY you began in the first place.

Because if you start with WHY, and trust the process, people start to take notice and somehow things just seem to fall into place.

I don’t like the label “graphic artist.”

It’s not that I have something against people who are graphic artists. Many use the terms “graphic designer” and “artist” interchangeably. But, the reality is, that title doesn’t apply to me.

Why? Because artists just operate on a different plane than normal people. They view the world differently. They see from a unique perspective. I have a friend who is this way. He is a phenomenal painter. His portraits (of which I have been a subject of many) are so realistic and beautiful. But it’s not just his work, it’s the way he thinks. It is the way he approaches life and art that makes him… well, an artist.

And I don’t see myself in that category.

That is why I prefer “designer.”

According to Merriam-Webster a “designer” is someone “who plans how something new will look and be made.” And if you look at the definition of “design” it says “to plan and make decisions about something that is being built or created.”

For example, my job title during the week is “graphic designer.” But that doesn’t mean I sit around at my computer all day creating images to share on Instagram or creating ads for event journals. It means I have to critically think through size specifications, photography from events, copy changes and edits, juggling time-sensitive deadlines, and managing relationships between departments. My job revolves more around making design-centered decisions rather than creating the beautiful works of art. Sometimes that process culminates in beautiful works of art. But other times it just moves the ball down the field for the team.

I believe I stand at a crossroads; I believe design is stands at a crossroads. An intersection of beauty and function, art and strategy, speaking the language of artists and bridging the gap to those who don’t think of themselves as such. It funnels creativity and filters ideas into a cohesive message, and it encourages imagination and dreams up new, innovative directions to go.

Because design is all about the planning; design is all about the process.

And the world needs more designers. Not artists who think they are designers, but true designers who solve problems by marrying beauty and function, who change the world with stunning simplicity, and alter the course of movements through insightful thinking.

Because designers make the artists’s world a reality.