I did ever in my life.”
Wozniak is fond of calling himself an “engineer's engineer,” a term grew out of his early years as an engineer for Hewlett Packard (HP) and seems to be at the core of his design philosophy. “An engineer's engineer sounds like, 'Oh, I'm a superior engineer,' No," he explained. “I was at Hewlett Packard designing products that engineers used. When you're an engineer's engineer, building products for other engineers, you know the market very well because these are products you would use yourself. You don't need a marketing person to tell you what it is you should build. I know what the want is and the need and the value. A lot of marketing at HP would come from the bottom, engineers ideas would percolate up and become the big products.”
This mindset, Wozniak said, is exactly what engineers should adopt when they're looking to innovate or create something that his co-founder Steve Jobs might have called “insanely great.” He told anecdotes about the iPhone being so innovative because Jobs was not a technical person and obsessed over every detail to make the smartphone as simple and intuitive as possible for himself. “I think about the Tesla Model X,” Wozniak said. “Why would anyone have ever built an electric car large? When you analyze cost of batteries and electricity it doesn't add up. Why did they do it? Elon Musk has a large family, that's why.”
For Wozniak, things like simplicity, usability, and elegance, all qualities shared by our favorite devices, all come from designers building for themselves first and foremost. “When you build something for yourself you've got a huge advantage over trying to imagine other people and what would they want or what would they buy. And you're doing it for the art, for something you would want to own, more than you're doing just it for money. That's where the greatest products come from.”
Chris Wiltz is the Managing Editor of Design News.