Ken Segall talks apples and oranges


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2 minute read

In a meeting room at the Cupertino headquarters of Apple, Steve Jobs unveiled the see-through Bondi Blue Macintosh to his ad agency.

It was the late 90s and in the room was creative director Ken Segall, who didn’t know it then, but was about to name the product that resuscitated an ailing Apple.

The Bondi Blue would launch in just one week and was still nameless.

Segall and the team offered a number of names, but there was only one he really loved -- “iMac”. It was perfect, it referenced the computer's capacity to connect to the internet, but it also meant individual, imaginative, and innovative. And, perhaps above all, it was simple.

But, Jobs hated it and had a rather bad alternative in mind, MacMan.

Over the course of the week, the name grew on Jobs, and it eventually stuck.

Baptizing a product empire was not Segall’s only achievement with Apple, he wrote their Emmy Award winning campaign, Think Different (yes, there’s an Emmy for commercials, and Think Different was only the second in history to win it). The campaign ran over five years and was instrumental to Apple’s recovery after Steve Jobs returned to the company.

Segall worked with NeXT, (a tech company set up by Jobs between stints with Apple) and Apple for around 14 years, and his big take away from working with Jobs was his approach to simplicity.

Simplicity at all levels of the company from product design, to packaging, to marketing and the internal organisation. Segall believes it is one key aspect of a successful company, so much so, he wrote two books on the topic.

His first book, Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success unpicks the success of Apple after Jobs’ return. According to Segall, Jobs treated simplicity like ‘a religion’ and the book outlines the tenets of simplicity that drove Apple to success.

In his second book, Think Simple: How Smart Leaders Defeat Complexity, Segall interviewed more than 40 business leaders of who leveraged the power of simplicity. He spoke to leaders from big and small companies, all whom had a unique approach to creating simplicity.

In between his work with Jobs and his writing Segall offered his advice and creative services to other computer technology companies, including Dell, Intel and IBM.

As a former insider at Apple, as well as his time spent at contrasting iconic technology brands, Segall has made a good case for simplicity in business and how it can lead to success.

Segall now spruiks the power of simplicity all around the world. His Insanely Simple keynote helps businesses understand the value of making their business less complicated.

His blog, The Observatory, is where he offers insights on the latest technology and marketing and he still consults to companies who are looking to harness simplicity in their creative projects, he’ll even help them with product naming.