maya principle

What Startups Can Learn from the MAYA Principal

You may not know who Raymond Loewy is, but you definitely know his work. He designed the iconic Coca-Cola bottle, the Sears Coldspot refrigerator, and the Shell Oil logo. Loewy is often referred to as the father of Industrial Design (ID), which is the process of designing goods for mass production. He is also responsible for the MAYA principle.

MAYA for Startups

Photo gathered from www.raymondloewy.com

MAYA Defined

MAYA stands for “most advanced, yet acceptable.” Loewy believed that in order to sell something surprising, you had to make it familiar. And in order to sell something familiar, you had to make it surprising. This concept refers to the need to design a product that has a cool new “wow” factor that people will be excited about it, but that is not too advanced from what they’re used to in order to get them to actually use it.

People are reluctant to change. They have a certain comfort level with products they use every day. If you give them a brand-new gadget or solution that is highly advanced but requires a great deal of re-learning, they won’t use it. On the other hand, making gradual improvements and updates to a product over the course of time leads to higher adoptability.

The Greatest Modern-Day Example of MAYA

Think of the gradual evolution of the first-generation iPod to the iPhone X. If Apple had introduced the iPhone instead of the iPod in 2001, it probably wouldn’t have had the massive early adopter rate it experienced in 2007.

When Apple launched the iPod, it was simply an upgrade to the MP3 players of the time, which were upgrades to the Sony Walkman of the previous generation, and so on. Users were comfortable with the iPod and its various improvements and releases over the years. Therefore, they were “ready” and somewhat educated on all the new features of the iPhone.

iPod Evolution

How Startups Can Apply the MAYA Principal

The main takeaway entrepreneurs should glean from the MAYA philosophy is not to overdevelop. It’s great to want to give your product a ton of features and benefits for your end-user, but if you give them too much, too soon, you’re setting yourself up for failure. They won’t use it. It will be too intimidating to them and they won’t have the patience to learn everything they need to know in order to get the full benefit of your solution.

We say this all the time here at iTechArt, but it’s worth repeating. Always come back to the minimum viable product (MVP). You can make it cool, and you can make it sexy, but you don’t want to make it too complicated. The most popular product and service trends today – the iPhone, Amazon’s Alexa, Uber, Airbnb – all have the “wow” factor. But they’re all wildly successful because they solve a basic human need. They just do it with the greatest style.

That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. 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