Following his retirement, WIRED recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Yurchenco to talk about his incredible career. Excerpts from the piece have been inserted below, but be sure to head over to WIRED for the full article.
Building the Apple Mouse
Yurchenco was just a year or two out of school when he got a call from an old Stanford pal, David Kelley. Kelley had just started a new design firm and asked if Yurchenco might want to join as an engineer. That meant a proper salary—Yurchenco had been working at a medical tech start-up, being paid mostly in stock—so he agreed. The company was called Hovey-Kelley; Ideo was still a few years off at that point. But thanks to co-founder Dean Hovey’s relationship with Jobs, Apple became one of the young company’s first clients.
Becoming a Master of Making
The design process for the Apple mouse embodied a few things that continue to define Ideo. For one, it was very much a hands-on affair. “We were always making stuff,” Yurchenco remembers. “Prototyping as fast, as dirty, as rapidly as possible.” Ideo predates CAD, 3-D printing, and CNC, at least insofar as any of those technologies were cheap enough for a fledgling design studio to afford.
The Secret: Keep Asking the Same Questions
Yurchenco has had a ground-level view of the design industry from the start of the personal computer revolution. So what’s changed?
For one, he says, concerns like usability have become a major part of the design process from the beginning. That involves questions like: How do people react to a product? And how might they abuse it? What will they do wrong, and how can the product help prevent them from doing that? “If our design is allowing them to do something wrong, it’s not their fault. It’s our fault,” he says.