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Jobs: It’s not just a box

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After reading the Steve Jobs biography, SEAN BACHER discovers that although he was a difficult man, his attention to the smallest detail even the box that a product was shipped in – made all the difference.

While reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson, it became evident to me just what a complex character Jobs was. He was a tyrant when it came to business giving other companies doing business with him very little leeway and quite often giving them the impression that it is going to be his way or the highway. Most of the time this worked too, his mantra being, ‚”those guys don’t know what they are doing, but we do‚”.

The biography also revealed that he wouldn’t win the ‚”Boss Of The Year‚” award, quite often belittling his employees in front of the rest of the team, often firing them on the spot for not putting the best they could into a certain design. On the other hand, he would make some employees feel like God when they designed something that he liked.

But, despite his quirks, he had a great eye for detail. Besides his duties as the Apple CEO, he sat with designers, developers and advertisers to come up with ideas on how best to build, design and market Apple’s products. Everything had to be perfect, from the printed circuit boards inside the products that consumers will never see to the overall look and feel of the product.

This eye for detail filtered all the way down to the packaging of the product, something that many of us take for granted and that many manufacturers pay no attention to. Jobs’ idea was that the second a consumer opens up a product, whether it is an iPhone, iPad or MacBook, a relationship begins to form and that the first few seconds between a consumer and a product are perhaps the most crucial, as first impressions last.

After reading this, I took a look at a few of the products I have on review and realised that Jobs was correct. For example, many of us have bought devices that come in that hard, clear plastic that works well at displaying a product on a shelf but is an absolute nightmare to open up. You can’t tear it, nor can you break it open without the risk of breaking its contents. Instead you have to go in search of a pair of scissors or a knife. But, when you have just got home with a brand new toy, the last thing you want to do is waste time opening it so you can begin using it.

The same goes with many notebooks and computers. The outside packaging is often inviting and invigorating, but when you open the box you are presented with layers and layers of brown cardboard that needs to be unpacked first. It almost feels like you are unpacking a cheap piece of furniture instead of a brand-new, high-tech device.

Jobs was so particular about the design and packaging of Apple products that a patent was filed for the packaging of the iPod and the iPhone. It refers to a base that supports the device above the rest of the packaging, giving it the effect that it is floating in the box. Apart from the patent, the box has a removable top that doesn’t need any sharp objects to open.

The other problem with boxes is that they are unnecessary once they have been unpacked and end up in the dustbin as they take up space and will probably never be used again. But in the case of iPhones, iPads and iPods, chances are that the boxes will find a space on your bookshelf or in your desk, and are less likely to end up at a paper recycling plant along with all the other discarded boxes.

Jobs’ other reason for paying so much attention to packaging may be that if a product is well packaged, it instills a feeling of ‚”If the company spent so much time on the box, then the product must be great.‚”

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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