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Steve Jobs' criticism could be useful even if it is not constructive, says the former iPhone chief engineer

We already had some interesting insights from Ken Kocienda, former head engineer of iPhone software. An exclusive excerpt from his book Creative selection back in August provided a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the iPhone keyboard.

My colleague Benjamin Mayo also shared a number of his book earlier this month. Kocienda celebrates the making of the WSJ besteller list by sharing a new one in the newspaper …

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Imagine that your boss told you right on your face that your project & # 39; dog shit & # 39; is. Imagine then that this boss is Steve Jobs. That is what happened to me when I worked during the golden years of Apple as the most important developer of iPhone software.

What was the right way to respond? It would have been a bad idea to agree with Steve and ask him why I would offer him inferior work. But it would not have been good to disagree, unless I was willing to enter into a debate with a famous mercurial CEO – and that was not me at that moment.

Steve's blunt review was from Kocienda's proposed fonts to show off the Retina display on the iPhone 4. But although the phrasing might not be welcome, he said, the feedback was.

I prepared eight choices, many variations of our old typeface, Helvetica, mixed with a number of others for contrast. But each of them had a problem: if you increased the magnification, the vertical stripes of the important capital letter & # 39; M & # 39; (as in Mail and Message for example) rather smudgy than sharp out – no better than with the previous non-Retina display.

I started combing the fonts again with colleagues, and within a few days we discovered Helvetica Neue. This Neue (German for "new") version had subtle improvements that made every letter look perfect on the new screen. Steve approved it on sight.

Although some may have used the experience as support for the idea that Steve & # 39; a bully or an acorn & # 39; was, Kocienda said that was not his position.

The second point sometimes gets lost in the conventional view of Steve Jobs as a bully or a jerk: criticism can be effective, even if it is not constructive. Steve had no problem with giving a rejection without explanation. If he did not like something, he just said that. His style of feedback was immediate, and he was willing to say that an idea was not right even if he could not explain why in clear and concise terms. […]

The key to making hard words is to have a trusting environment where everyone knows that comments are about your work and not about you.

Creative selection: within the design process of Apple during the golden age of Steve Jobs is available on Amazon and iBooks.


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