Apple’s Brilliant New Ad Shows Design Thinking at Work
April 22, 2019 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

Apple’s Brilliant New Ad Shows Design Thinking at WorkApple released a new commercial on YouTube last week (yes releasing commercials on YouTube is now a thing) and it could be just the thing you need to convince your team to embrace design thinking.

If you’ve been struggling to get your team on board with using design thinking, or if you are just tired of explaining what it is, and how it can transform the way you problem solve, just give them some earbuds and play the commercial.

It’s called Apple at Work: The Underdogs. It showcases how Apple products can enhance and empower you at work — and it does a beautiful job of that. But it also illustrates the power of design thinking. The commercial tells the story of how a junior group of Apple designers gets — quite literally by accident — a coveted, rare meeting with top leadership. It’s their one chance to prove themselves, and in two days, they need to come up with an innovative design that’s going to knock their socks off.

They start by going back to the drawing board of a project they tried before, with no success. It was meant to solve the enduring, universal problem of soggy delivery pizza. But by using design thinking methods, they are finally able to crack it wide open.

The crux of the problem is the box. Pizzas are round and hot, boxes are square and cardboard. The result, a slippery drafty space that does nothing for a pizza but make it soggy. Plus there’s all that wasted space, and why is it square for goodness sake?

The commercial shows the team going through all of the stages of design thinking in their glorious, messy fashion. Empathy, ideation, prototyping, back to ideation, back to prototyping, and finally, testing their idea in the meeting with leadership.

Did leadership love the idea? We don’t find out. The commercial ends as the nervous team gets into the elevator and stands there for a few seconds before they realize nobody has pressed the floor button. The doors close, the commercial fades out.

There is one fact that people may or may not know. The round pizza box is a real product, really invented that way at Apple. They call it the Frisbee and have patented the design. They serve pizzas in it at their corporate café so staffers can take them back to their desks and not have a soggy pizza for lunch.

It’s a warm, funny, clever illustration of design thinking in practice (once again proving the genius of Apple).

Is design thinking always a neat, linear process? No. Sometimes you need to go back to the drawing board. Sometimes you need input from Mike in finance, or Jane in supply chain who may have insights into one corner of your success. Sometimes you’re not sure if it’s all going to work.

It can be breathless and tiring inventing something new, redesigning something that’s just not working anymore, going to strange, new worlds. Innovation and transformation takes energy, but it’s exciting and wonderful and makes those hours you spend at the office (and sometimes in the middle of the night) worth it when the final product or service is awesome.

If you have three minutes, check the commercial out. It’s funny, clever and made us laugh more than once, and when you’re done watching it, you’ll have a firm grip on why design thinking is a powerful strategy and approach for your business.


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