Apple's Jony Ive says current projects are their most important so far, talks Apple design
Today is Sir Jonathan Ive day, as Apple's head of design will receive knighthood for the creation of the iPod, iPhone, iPad and the MacBook Air, to name a few examples you might have heard about.
He gave a thorough interview how the British design school he graduated from is still influencing his design decisions, 20 years after he moved to California to work for Apple: "Even in high school I was keenly aware of this remarkable tradition that the UK had of designing and making. It’s important to remember that Britain was the first country to industrialise, so I think there’s a strong argument to say this is where my profession was founded."
The most interesting for us part is where he talks about the process of designing Apple's products. It turns out that sometimes the ideas are so novel, that the design team has to recreate the whole production process from scratch and show that the idea is viable, like the steel-and-glass chassis of the iPhone 4/4S.
Asked which is his favorite Apple product that his team had designed, Jony Ive replied: "It’s a really tough one. A lot does seem to come back to the fact that what we’re working on now feels like the most important and the best work we’ve done, and so it would be what we’re working on right now, which of course I can’t tell you about.” The opinion probably doesn't have the iPhone 6 in mind, as by that time it should be prepped for mass assembly, but rather the rumored iTV set that will be Apple's entry into a totally new market.
As for the general process of designing Apple's products, Sir Jonathan Ive seems to be most comfortable to talk about it as a team effort, and with a team that cares:
I think it’s a wonderful view that care was important – but I think you can make a one-off and not care and you can make a million of something and care. Whether you really care or not is not driven by how many of the products you’re going to make....
We’re keenly aware that when we develop and make something and bring it to market that it really does speak to a set of values. And what preoccupies us is that sense of care, and what our products will not speak to is a schedule, what our products will not speak to is trying to respond to some corporate or competitive agenda. We’re very genuinely designing the best products that we can for people...
We try to develop products that seem somehow inevitable. That leave you with the sense that that’s the only possible solution that makes sense. Our products are tools and we don’t want design to get in the way. We’re trying to bring simplicity and clarity, we’re trying to order the products...
Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that's a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That's not simple. The quest for simplicity has to pervade every part of the process. It really is fundamental.
In terms of those elements you're talking about, I'm not really connected to that." Quite diplomatic.
Finally, and probably the most important part of the whole interview, Johny Ive says that to him Apple won't just change for the worse because Steve Jobs is no longer at the helm:
We're developing products in exactly the same way that we were two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. It's not that there are a few of us working in the same way: there is a large group of us working in the same way.
We have become rather addicted to learning as a group of people and trying to solve very difficult problems as a team. And we get enormous satisfaction from doing that. Particularly when you're sat on a plane and it appears that the majority of people are using something that you've collectively agonised over. It's a wonderful reward.