As anybody with an interest in Apple’s top-secret design offices knows, few details ever emerge behind the Minimaluminiumalism approach to some of the most game-changing product designs of all time.

Sure, Apple’s Jony Ive has expressed how much appreciation he has for Dieter Rams and even opened up on how much Dieter Rams influenced him long before Apple in the book As Little Design as Possible.

Among other tidbits of Apple design ethos that have sprinkled around over the past decade, Ive also appeared in the product design-focused documentary Objectified to give a glimpse into Apple’s prototyping lab…with Rams returning the adoration favor as well:

But what has been the real ‘blood and guts’ philosophy behind Apple’s approach to simplicity in design?

Well, we may now know.

In an article published in yesterday’s Sunday Edition of the New York Times (8/10/14), we got a more detailed look at the company’s internal training program—AKA Apple University.

Established by Steve Jobs in 2008 as a way to acclimate new employees to the DNA of Apple’s business culture and approach to design, the highly-secretive training program has been a subject of fascination for those in the tech and design world.

For the article, the Times were able to interview three unidentified Apple employees under the condition that they would remain anonymous……or could this be a clever PR move to build Apple hype leading up to the release of the supposed iWatch next month?

Either way, it’s a fascinating read. Here are some of the best takeaways:


  • The minimalist design philosophy is compared to Picasso’s Bull…a piece in which the Spanish artist deconstructs a bull through 11 lithographs to its most simple graphical state.
  • Like an Apple product, the University is “meticulously planned with polished presentations”.
  • The toilet paper in the bathrooms are “really nice”.
  • The program runs in-house year round with a full-time faculty including instructors, writers and editors who create and teach the courses. The faculty includes those who have held teaching positions at Yale, Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley.
  • There are multiple courses that employees can freely choose from ranging from marketing to product design…however every course is optional including attending the University at all.
  • A course titled ‘The Best Things’ teaches employees how to surround themselves with only ‘the best things’ including peers and well-designed products in an effort to inspire and help drive innovation.
  • One course focuses solely on business decisions such as the decision to make the iPod and its iTunes software compatible with Microsoft’s Windows system.
  • One course focuses on the urban planning of New York City’s Central Park and compares it to Steve Job’s vision of ‘making complex computer technologies feel understandable and natural’.
  • It is rumored that there is a course coming up that focuses on Beats Headphones, which would include Beats founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.

“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.”

-Ben Bajarin, consumer technology analyst

Be sure to read the fascinating article in-full over at the New York Times.

(Picasso and Apple image from NYT)


Simon is a Brooklyn-based industrial designer and Managing Editor of EVD Media. When he finds the time to design, his focus is on helping startups develop branding and design solutions to realize their product design vision. In addition to his work at Nike and various other clients, he is the main reason anything gets done at EvD Media. He once wrestled an Alaskan alligator buzzard to the ground with his bare hands… to rescue Josh.