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The wrong lesson from Steve Jobs and Paul Rand.

The wrong lesson from Steve Jobs and Paul Rand.

Show your work, say you won’t change anything, and you too can sell anything!

MPS
MPS

There’s a famous Steve Jobs and Paul Rand story. Steve Jobs liked Paul Rand’s previous design work and approached Paul to design a logo for NeXT. Steve asked Paul if he could come up with a few options. Paul said no. He said he would come up with a solution. Steve was free to use it or not. But Paul would be paid, and he would only present one final design. Paul told Steve to get options from other designers if he really wanted options.

Paul’s curmudgeonly disposition impressed Steve. So, Steve let Paul get on with the design.

Paul went off and came back with a big 100 paged book. Paul showed his work. He laid out all his iterations, all the paths he’d explored, all the ideas he had tossed out. At the end of the book, he showed his final design. He solved Steve’s problem. And Steve used the logo.

The book doesn’t often make it into this story. Without the book, you get this picture of Paul putting together a logo and perfecting it out of the gate. You get a sense that if you’re as good as Paul, the answer comes to you, and you package it up, put it in front of your customer, and they eat it up.

That approach is a great way to come up with garbage. To experiment, explore, to reject, to restart is essential in solving big problems.

Now, the way Paul Rand presented his work was his art. It was his salesmanship, not good design, per se. Rand did his homework. He tinkered. And then he told his customer, this is all you get, and you will pay me for it. That was the contract.

A clear contract gets people to sign the contract. People don’t like ambiguity. And Paul Rand, the businessman, the salesman, used this to his advantage.

But is it good design practice to not take customer input after you present something to them? Does it help you get to a better logo? A better bridge? A better interface?

No.

But boy does it help to sell that logo, bridge, or interface.