How Apple Used Pablo Picasso's Famous Lithographs To Drive Home Steve Jobs’ Lessons

The user writes that Picasso's Bull gets a direct hat-tip in Apple's famous “Think Different” advertisement as well

How Apple Used Pablo Picasso's Famous Lithographs To Drive Home Steve Jobs’ Lessons

Apple teaches the philosophy of Picasso's The Bull, reducing detail to only what's needed

  • A Twitter thread explains how Apple employees learn from Pablo Picasso
  • They are shown his lithograph where each iteration removes details
  • This way only the essence remains in the final image, and nothing extra

Apple founder Steve Jobs had once famously said that innovation meant “saying no to 1,000 things” before saying, yes. And, now, a decade after the pioneer of the personal computer era passed away, a Twitter user has written a thread explaining how Apple has used Pablo Picasso's Bull to drive home Jobs' lesson in the past 10 years. How? User @TrungTPhan, who writes on business and technology, says, “For more than a decade, Apple has used Pablo Picasso's Bull to drive home the lesson," before breaking it down.

In December 1945, Picasso created “The Bull”, which was a series of 11 lithographs (stone prints). With each successive print, Phan writes, the Spanish painter and sculptor, a bull was simplified and abstracted. "Picasso's goal was to find 'spirit of the beast,'" he says. And at Apple, the employees are taught this philosophy, he says further.

Phan then shared the first, fourth and last stone print, tracing the progress of the famous bull. Picasso's bull progresses from: "White medium square a realistic drawing. White medium square to a deconstructed image with his famous "abstract" style. White medium square to a series of lines outlining the bull's shape," he writes.

The user writes further that Picasso, through 11 different iterations, simplified and abstracted the bull until he succeeded in capturing the "essence" of what he was looking for. In his next tweet, Phan shared a picture of multiple mouses and their evolution that Apple had introduced to the market. "Apple uses the evolution of its mouse as an example of Picasso's Way (e.g., the buttons were "abstracted" away)," he writes

In a successive tweet, the user writes that Apple teaches its employees the same lessons by contrasting its Apple TV remote with existing smart controllers (significantly fewer buttons).

"The Picasso way of saying "no" and capturing "the essence" extends to business strategy," he writes, adding, "When Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1997, Apple was near bankruptcy and on a streak of failed products including a gaming machine (Pippin) and a personal digital assistant (Newton)."

After his return, during a product meeting with his team, Jobs shouted "stop... this is crazy" and got up to draw something on the whiteboard, Phan writes, adding, "It was a 2x2 matrix laying out his product line: Desktop/Portable, Consumer/Pro.

And that's how a company nearing bankruptcy started its resurgence, the user writes. The mantra was: "By saying "no" to a ton of fluff and simplifying the product offerings, Apple would start its legendary resurgence." "Its market cap was <$5B upon Jobs' return," Phan writes.

By 2011, the year Jobs passed away, the company had accumulated a value of $350bn. Even after his demise, the company continues to follow the same Picasso's Bull and the user says, "The evolution of the iPod/iPhone followed the Picasso Way, especially with the removal of the trackpad (and introduction of a touchscreen)."

“The way we're running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let's make it simple. Really simple,” Jobs used to say. And it doesn't end there. Phan writes that Picasso's Bull gets a direct hat-tip in Apple's famous "Think Different" advertisement as well, further drawing home the point the writer was trying to make in his thread.

So, what do you think of Phan's assessment of Apple? 

We dive into all things WWDC — iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, watchOS 8 and more — this week on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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