Jony Ive on Apple Design: 5 Telling Insights From the Evening Standard Q&A
Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, doesn't grant many interviews, but today he was the focus of a deep, 1,670-word Q&A with the London Evening Standard.
Conducted by Science and Technology Editor Mark Prigg, the interview was a coupthough maybe the publication leveraged its shared British lineage with Ive. Apple's design boss was knighted as a Commander of the British Empire in December, and can now call himself Sir Jonathan" when he so chooses.
In the interview, Ive delves into very few product-specific details, but he does paint a fascinating (if broad) picture of Apple's design process. Ive also confirms some of the mythology that's wheeled out whenever pundits need to describe the excruciating attention to detail that Apple applies to product design.
If you're an Apple enthusiast, make sure to read the full interviewbut not before reading our list of its five most telling highlights.
On How New Products Come About When you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you made a 3D model, however crude, you bring form to a nebulous idea, and everything changesthe entire process shifts."
There shouldn't be anything shocking about this quote, but Ive's reference to 3-D modeling reminds us that Apple product design still must follow some semblance of a traditional workflow. Indeed, when we think of Apple, we tend to romanticize its design process. The hardware overflows with so many organic design cues, we assume it emerges fully formed from the brains of Ive and company, almost like Athena from the skull of Zeus. But 3-D modeling? That's a silly little step we would only expect from a Sony or a Samsung, right?
I jest, of course. All modern industrial design is at least partially conceived with the help of 3-D modelingobviously. But because Apple hardware design is so iconic, so fully baked, we easily forget it was ever modeled" by anyone.
On Goals When Setting Out to Build a New Product Our goals are very simpleto design and make better products. If we can't make something that is better, we won't do it. Most of our competitors are interesting in doing something different, or want to appear newI think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that's what drives usa sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better."
Is this quote coded language for, We will not create a 7- or 8-inch iPad mini, because no one really wants one," or is Ive simply restating a perennial Steve Job trope? Answer: It's both.
Apple has a consistent track record in staying out of product categories in which it can't add real value. The company doesn't make a game console, or even gaming PCs. And instead of going down the value netbook path, it leapfrogged straight to tablets. It didn't invent the tablet, of course, but it released such a polished tablet, it convinced 99 percent of the consumer populace that it had actually created this hardware category.
Music players? Those existed before the iPod. Apple simply made a better music player. Thin and light notebooks? Those existed before the MacBook Air. Apple simply made a better thin and light notebook. So can Apple make a better big-screen TV? I think so. And I wish Prigg had asked Ive about that.
On How Ive Knows Consumers Will Want Products We don't do focus groupsthat is the job of the designer. It's unfair to ask people who don't have a sense of the opportunities of tomorrow from the context of today to design."