NYT Gets Look Inside Apple's Secretive Training Program

Three Apple employees tell The New York Times the company is training its product design employees by using Picasso artwork to simplify features.

NYT Gets Look Inside Apple's Secretive Training Program
Getty Images

The secretive internal training program for Apple designers has been kept tightly under wraps, but now some of its unique training techniques have been brought to light.

Three anonymous employees who've attended the so-called Apple University told The New York Times instructors will use the 11 lithographs illustrated in Picasso's "The Bull," encouraging students to break down a product — such as a computer mouse — into its basic elements. This enabling them to "strive for simplicity just as Picasso eliminated details to create a great work of art."

The group said, "[It's a] vivid reflection of Apple and the image it presents to the world. Like an Apple product, it is meticulously planned, with polished presentations and a gleaming veneer that masks a great deal of effort." One employee added. "'Even the toilet paper in the bathrooms is really nice.'"

The employees also said the year-round training operates in-house in Culpertino, California in an area called, "The City Center," with meticulously-designed trapezoid-shaped rooms. It recruits faculty from top universities across the country. Courses are often "tailored" to the individual employee's vocation. And some courses delve into Apple's key marketing decisions, like enabling iTunes to operate on Windows systems.

One of the better examples of the school's primary focus is what is often taught in the "What Makes Apple, Apple" class. 

The instructor uses a Google TV remote — which boasts 78 buttons — to contrast Apple's more simplistic three-button remote stick that basically allows the user to simply press play, pause and navigate without a lot of bells and whistles.

"It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things humans have done." Lastly, a course called "The Best Things," — derived from this 1994 Steve Jobs interview — tells students to simply surround themselves with students who excel and superior products to cultivate that way of thinking. (Video via Apple)

Apples secrecy has been known for some time and the fact that the Times even managed to hear from voices behind Apple's tightly-shut doors is definitely rare.

A writer and editor for Cult of Mac has followed the tech company for awhile and told Bloomberg last year:

"They're more secretive than the NSA. ... People aren't allowed to their spouses, their kids, the people they work with, unless they're working on exactly the same project. There are stories about cubicles where people sitting at desks next to each other where there's a curtain between them."

And Brian Williams even questioned current CEO Tim Cook about it in late 2012 on his now-defunct talk show "Rock Center."

WILLIAMS: "Why are you institutionally so secretive?"
​COOK: "We think that holding our product plans secret is very important because people love surprises."

As secret as they are, it sure seems like plans for new Apple products get leaked every time something is in the works. Then again, maybe that's just the right amount of bread crumbs to keep consumers wanting more.

This video contain images from Getty Images, yum9me / CC BY NC ND 2.0.