Jobs felt that design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use.
Those goals do not always go together.
Sometimes a design can be so sleek and simple that a user finds it intimidating or unfriendly to navigate.
"The main thing in our design is that we have to make things intuitively obvious,"
Jobs told the crowd of design mavens.
For example, he extolled the desktop metaphor he was creating for the Macintosh.
"People know how to deal with a desktop intuitively.
If you walk into an office, there are papers on the desk.
The one on the top is the most important.
People know how to switch priority.
Part of the reason we model our computers on metaphors like the desktop is that we can leverage this experience people already have."
Speaking at the same time as Jobs that Wednesday afternoon,
but in a smaller seminar room, was Maya Lin, twenty-three,
who had been catapulted into fame the previous November when her Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C.
They struck up a close friendship, and Jobs invited her to visit Apple.
"I came to work with Steve for a week," Lin recalled.
"I asked him, 'Why do computers look like clunky TV sets?
Why don't you make something thin? Why not a flat laptop?'"
Jobs replied that this was indeed his goal, as soon as the technology was ready.
At that time there was not much exciting happening in the realm of industrial design, Jobs felt.
He had a Richard Sapper lamp, which he admired, and he also liked the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames and the Braun products of Dieter Rams.
But there were no towering figures energizing the world of industrial design the way that Raymond Loewy and Herbert Bayer had done.
"There really wasn't much going on in industrial design,
particularly in Silicon Valley, and Steve was very eager to change that," said Lin.
"His design sensibility is sleek but not slick, and it's playful.
He embraced minimalism, which came from his Zen devotion to simplicity,
but he avoided allowing that to make his products cold. They stayed fun.
He's passionate and super-serious about design,
but at the same time there's a sense of play."
As Jobs's design sensibilities evolved,
he became particularly attracted to the Japanese style and began hanging out with its stars, such as Issey Miyake and I.M. Pei.
His Buddhist training was a big influence.
"I have always found Buddhism, Japanese Zen Buddhism in particular, to be aesthetically sublime," he said.
"The most sublime thing I've ever seen are the gardens around Kyoto.
I'm deeply moved by what that culture has produced, and it's directly from Zen Buddhism."