Apple, Design, Backward Design

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, opened a product release event today by playing this video which emphasizes the role of design in Apple’s work. Cook began his presentation saying,

I really love that video…I wanted to open with it this morning because I think it does such an incredible job of talking about our values. It reflects the unique way that Apple creates what we believe are the very best products in the world. You’re going to see some amazing products this morning that could only have been developed in that unique way.

In this video and his presentation Cook highlights the central role of design in Apple’s work; a process that focuses first on what they want the users of their products to experience and feel.

A Mac loving New Testament Professor I know sent me a text message today, “Are you watching the Apple streaming video? Their opening video is basically about backward design.”

Backward design is a framework for designing learning experiences that begins with articulating what students should know and be able because of a learning experience, then moving to designing and creating the learning activities and experiences that will help students attain the desired learning (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005, Fink, 2013).

Cook made a clear statement today about the central role of design for Apple. Just as Apple’s design process focuses on how users will be affected by their products, backward design focuses on what students will learn in a course or program. In my experience backward design is often done at the level of individual courses, but not necessarily at the level of an entire program or school. Are there colleges or universities where backward design plays a core strategic role? Are there deans, provosts, or presidents who are talking about the strategic role of design in ways similar to how Tim Cook is talking about design at Apple?

If you know of any examples of where this is happening, please share.

Fink, L. Dee. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences, revised and updated. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, expanded 2nd edition. Pearson.