Apple leverages Picasso to teach industrial design

Apple, in its internal training program, presents Picasso's series of 11 lithographs that constitute “The Bull” to teach attendees how to design smartphones and other devices.

The first image in the series is a realistic depiction of a bull. Later images become increasingly abstract and simplified, with the final image, reduced to a few lines, capturing, as the website Artyfactory puts it, “…the absolute essence of the creature….”

What's this have to do with Apple? According to Brian X. Chen writing in The New York Times, “Apple designers strive for simplicity just as Picasso eliminated details to create a great work of art.”

Chen notes the famous secrecy of Apple, adding that the company refused to make instructors available for interviews for his article.

However, he writes, “…three employees who have taken classes agreed to speak to The New York Times on the condition that they not be identified. They described a program that is an especially vivid reflection of Apple and the image it presents to the world. Like an Apple product, it is meticulously planned, with polished presentations and a gleaming veneer that masks a great deal of effort.”

The internal training program, often called Apple University, covers topics other than art and design as well. Chen writes that one course taught founders of acquired companies how to blend into Apple. Another covered business decisions at Apple, including the decision to make iTunes compatible with Windows—a move, Chen explains, that was initially opposed by Steve Jobs.

Chen concludes his article by quoting Ben Bajarin, a consumer technology analyst for Creative Strategies, as saying, “When you do the case studies on Apple decades from now, the one thing that will keep coming out is this unique culture where people there believe they’re making the best products that change people’s lives. That’s all cultural stuff they’re trying to ingrain. That becomes very difficult the bigger you get.”

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