The secret behind inspiring designers to make beloved gadgets

Nest's Tony Fadell at GigaOM RoadMap

Successful design-driven companies have a clear point of view and a story to tell that extends to every single person in the company, according to Tony Fadell, the CEO of Nest and a former designer at Apple who led the development of the first 18 iterations of the iPhone. Fadell gave his advice about how to design beloved devices like the iPhone and the Nest thermostat at the Bloomberg Design conference this week, in response to a question about the difference between designing at places like Apple and Philips.

At Philips, and at conglomerates that are much more financially driven, Fadell said that the vast majority of products that the designers work on are not shipped. “Nine times out of ten, or 99 times out of 100, they would kill the project, either at the beginning, the middle or right before the product was supposed to be shipped,” said Fadell.

Roadmap 2012 Tony Fadell Nest

Tony Fadell, Founder and CEO, Nest (c) 2012 Pinar Ozger

If the management changed over, and they didn’t understand what the product was, they would just cancel it, explained Fadell.

Such a culture means that designers don’t do their best work and just go through the motions of creating a product. Why put your best work into a project that is just going to be tossed in the dustbin?

In contrast, at Apple, 99 percent of projects that made it past certain milestones shipped, said Fadell. All of the workers at Apple — from the management to the designers to the marketers — had a point of view, a story to tell, and a specific customer envisioned for the product. If management changed, everyone is still on the same page. “When you’re in a culture that has a point of view, and drives to launch everything it does, you know you’re on the hook and you better bring your best game every time,” said Fadell.

Fadell spoke at our RoadMap conference in November 2012, which focused on design in the age of connectedness.

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