Apple has had such a profound impact on our lives (see the ‘Apple fanboys’ photo below taken by my cousin, Christopher, at our annual family Xmas gathering. My family alone could keep Apple in business).
An interview with the newly knighted Sir Jonathan Ive appeared in the London Evening Standard a few days ago and I thought there were some nice insights here into design at Apple, where Sir Ive is Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, and design in general. Here’s some excerpts I quite liked:
Q: What makes design different at Apple?
We struggle with the right words to describe the design process at Apple, but it is very much about designing and prototyping and making. When you separate those, I think the final result suffers. If something is going to be better, it is new, and if it’s new you are confronting problems and challenges you don’t have references for. To solve and address those requires a remarkable focus. There’s a sense of being inquisitive and optimistic, and you don’t see those in combination very often.
Q: How does a new product come about at Apple?
The nature of having ideas and creativity is incredibly inspiring. There is an idea which is solitary, fragile and tentative and doesn’t have form.
What we’ve found here is that it then becomes a conversation, although remains very fragile.
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 changes – the entire process shifts. It galvanises and brings focus from a broad group of people. It’s a remarkable process.
Q: What makes a great designer?
It is so important to be light on your feet, inquisitive and interested in being wrong. You have that wonderful fascination with the what if questions, but you also need absolute focus and a keen insight into the context and what is important – that is really terribly important. Its about contradictions you have to navigate.
Q: How do you know consumers will want your products?
We don’t do focus groups – that 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.
Q: Your team of designers is very small – is that the key to its success?
The way we work at Apple is that the complexity of these products really makes it critical to work collaboratively, with different areas of expertise… We’re located together, we share the same goal, have exactly the same preoccupation with making great products.
Q: What are your goals when setting out to build a new product?
Our goals are very simple – to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.
Q: How do you know you’ve succeeded?
Our goal is simple objects, objects that you can’t imagine any other way. Simplicity is not the absence of clutter.
Q: Do consumers really care about good design?
One of the things we’ve really learnt over the last 20 years is that while people would often struggle to articulate why they like something.
Q: Users have become incredibly attached, almost obsessively so, to Apple’s products – why is this?
It sound so obvious, but I remember being shocked to use a Mac, and somehow have this sense I was having a keen awareness of the people and values of those who made it.
I think that people’s emotional connection to our products is that they sense our care, and the amount of work that has gone into creating it.
The full interview can be found here on London Evening Standard online.