Bestselling author Ken Segall talks Steve Jobs and the power of simplicity in Ann Arbor

Former ad executive shares insights at The Michigan Theater

Ken Segall speaks at The Michigan Theater on Sept. 12, 2018 (Photo: toejough)
Ken Segall speaks at The Michigan Theater on Sept. 12, 2018 (Photo: toejough)

ANN ARBOR – As Apple's coveted 2018 event was underway from its headquarters in Cupertino, another event revealing and analyzing the secret to the company's success took place at The Michigan Theater Wednesday.

New York Times bestselling author and Detroit native Ken Segall addressed members of Ann Arbor's tech community in a talk called "Insanely Simple," titled after his bestselling book, "Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success."

The event was organized by Cahoots, a new and emerging co-work space and tech hub at 206 E. Huron Street. As construction continues on the space, co-founder of Cahoots and CEO of local startup Trove, Guy Suter, joked before introducing Segall that they "have a definitive date for when construction ends: soon."

Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner


Cahoots plans to host similar events at its hub, which will feature large event spaces, a rooftop deck, a cafe and bar, fitness rooms, a spa and more.

Read more about the story of Cahoots

During his 45-minute presentation, Segall shared endless anecdotes about his times working with Apple co-founder, creative genius and notorious perfectionist Steve Jobs. Segall worked alongside Jobs for 12 years as his "ad guy." 

With his help, Apple boiled down simple messaging, design and presentation to an art.

He described creative meetings with Jobs and his team and revealed that he was the one to come up with the name for the iMac. Jobs originally wanted to call it "MacMan."

Ken Segall speaks at The Michigan Theater on Sept. 12, 2018 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)
Ken Segall speaks at The Michigan Theater on Sept. 12, 2018 (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

He joked that as a writer of several published books, his most famous work of all was the letter "i."

Segall also led Apple's "Think Different" campaign, challenging the advertising styles of the original tech giant IBM, which lacked two key elements that Apple has been able to capture for years: human and love. 

Throughout the presentation, he shared several of his favorite quotes from Jobs, one being:

"Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains." - Steve Jobs

After having campaigns thrown out the door by Jobs and told to think of something better time and time again, Segall realized that achieving simplicity is no easy task.

This was Segall's take-home message: Being simple is not simple at all. 

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Jobs was obsessed with the notion of keeping things clean and uncluttered, and he created the tag line "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" in an early ad campaign.

One quote Segall used that seemed to summarize his entire message was by the aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It reflects Apple's approach to design and its ethos.

"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

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