After working 35 years as a design engineer, Jim Yurchenco has decided to retire.
Yurchenco’s interest in design began back in the 1970s when he was enrolled at Stanford University. It didn’t take long before he found his passion at the design school’s workshop for students. This became the norm for Yurchenco throughout his career–spending time in the shop and exploring design ideas.
A few years after school, Yurchenco was offered a job by David Kelley, a friend from Stanford. This began a lifelong career at Ideo, which was called Hovey-Kelley when it began. Not long after he was employed at the company, Steve Jobs gave Hovey-Kelley a call and asked them if they would work on designing a low-cost, functional mouse similar to the one he had seen at Xerox that gave him the idea. Yurchenco was assigned to the project and used concepts from an Atari video game machine, optics and gravity to develop the first Apple mouse. Later, the same internal components were used for the mouse that was packaged and sold along with millions of Macintosh machines.
The design process for the mouse and other projects at Ideo were often formulated through simple, hands-on construction. For years, paper, pencil and a calculator were used to quickly build prototypes, a process that came in handy later when Yurchenco worked on the Palm V.
The master designer has advice for the younger generation of designers that are just beginning their careers. He said that he always asked a lot of questions of many different people until he had a firm grasp of knowledge about how something was made. A designer can learn a lot about a process when they visit multiple workshops and watch the same thing be built using different concepts and tools.