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John Ive

Learning By Doing

One of the hardest things about being an adult is that I never have enough time to do all the things I want to do. The older I get it seem the less time I have to read. One work-around I've used to address this is that I'll often listen to an audiobook while working. I still feel like this is cheating a little bit but it does expose me to material that I wouldn't have access to otherwise.

For example I listened the Walter Isaacson biography, Steve Jobs, right after it came out in 2011. At 656 pages it is a sizable tome and yet I was underwhelmed. I understood the chronology of the man's life, but not the man himself. I thought 2015's Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli did a much better job of explaining - as the title might suggest - how Steve Jobs became Steve Jobs.

It also contained a quote that I find I keep coming back to:

There's the object, the actual product itself, and then there's all that you learned. What you learned is as tangible as the product itself, but much more valuable because that's your future.

-John Ive, Chief Design Officer, Apple Computer

I don't know all that much about designing personal electronics, but my guess is it's a process much like architecture is a process. It involves a series of deliberate steps whereby information is gathered, a concept is divined, a design is developed, and documented, and ultimately that design is built. At the end of the day there is the building, yes, but there is also all that is learned while creating it.

Many times our house clients come away from the experience with a better understanding of how they live and as a result they live in their new house in a new way. Many times our commercial and institutional clients come away from the experience with a better understanding of how their organization functions. As a result they do their work in their new space in a new way.

And of course as architects we are always learning as well. Each project we do represents a learning opportunity that we try to take advantage of to its fullest potential. What we learn could be about how we design. We learn something about our process and how we could tweak it to be more efficient. Or it could be something to do with what we design. Although we can model and simulate and visualize our projects before they are built, there are always some surprises - some happy accidents - that we try and understand so that we can recreate them with intention on future projects.

At the end of the day I'm no Steve Jobs or John Ive. But I can still learn from them - even while I'm working.