1. Apple has the best designers.
It's actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design. Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers. And that's what makes everything about the product so much better . . . much more than any individual designer or design team.
2. Apple design team is infinite
For the most part, Apple didn't employ specialist designers. Every designer could hold their own in both creating icons and new interfaces, for instance. And thanks to the fact that Apple hires design-centric engineers, the relatively skeleton design team could rely on engineers to begin the build process on a new app interface, rather than having to initiate their own mock-up first.
3. Apple crafts every details with Intention
Apple designers (and engineers!) will often come up with clever interactive ideas—like 3-D cube interfaces or bouncy physics-based icons—during a bit of their down time, and then they might sit on them for years before they make sense in a particular context.
4. Steve Jobs passion frightened everyone
The reality is, the people who thrived at Apple were the people who welcomed that desire and passion to learn from working with Steve, and just really were dedicated to the customer and the product. They were willing to give up their weekends and vacation time. And a lot of the people who complained that it wasn't fair . . . they didn't see the value of giving all that up versus trying to create the best product for the customer and then sacrificing everything personally to get there.
Mark Kawano is the founder of Storehouse. Before Storehouse, Kwano was a designer at Apple where he worked on Aperture and iPhoto later becoming Apple's User Experience Evangelist.