Jony Ive Talks Apple Design: Our Competitors Have The Wrong Goals



Sir Jony Ive hasn’t agreed to too many interviews during his time as Apple’s senior vice president of industrial design. But the London Evening Standard has managed to tie him down for a rare interview in which he talks about Apple’s design process, and why its competitors have the wrong goals.

Mark Prigg, Science and Technology Editor for the London Evening Standard, had the pleasure of speaking to Ive about his recent knighthood, the differences between London — where he was born — and Silicon Valley, Apple’s design process, and its competition.

Here are a few of the most interesting extracts from the interview:

Q: What makes design different at Apple?

A: 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?

A: What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea. Where you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you make 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 are your goals when setting out to build a new product?

A: 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: Why has Apple’s competition struggled to do that?

A: Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us — a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better.

Q: Users have become obsessively attached to Apple products. Why?

A: When I used a Mac I had a keen awareness of the values of those who made it. I think people’s emotional connection to our product is that they sense our care, and the amount of work that has gone into creating it.

The entire interview is a really fascinating read, especially if you’re interested in Apple and its iconic designs. I highly recommend you check it out.

  • lowtolerance

    Wise words from one of the world’s best designers. Innovation for the sake of innovation is worthless, at least as it relates to design. At best, this approach results in arbitrary design decisions — this why we see so much form without function in electronic devices these days.

    It’s Apple’s proclivity to innovate for the sake of solving problems in the best way possible that allows them to almost consistently create disruptive technologies.

  • Bob_Zimmerman

    The thing that separates him from anyone else that I’ve seen an interview with is his passion.  You don’t ever think that the things he says are just lip service, he truly believes in what he is doing and he loves it.  As long as he’s at Apple good things are going to come.

  • tv_gadget

    Man this guys should write poems!!the way he talks the words he uses!

  • tv_gadget

    Man this guys should write poems!!the way he talks the words he uses!

  • prof_peabody

    Nothing personal to Ive, but I always think the opposite.  When I hear him talk I think “what a stickup prig!” He comes off like some coal miner from Cornwall putting on an upper-class accent.  Wether he believes what he says I couldn’t say, but he comes across like a total phoney to me. 

    He tends to over-use the same phrases over and over again and a lot of them don’t make much sense they are so filled with buzzwords.  I’m sure he’s a great designer but if I met him at a party I’d have a hard time stopping myself from pouring a drink on his head.

  • zagatosz

    Think different personified.

  • Clark Wallace

    lol, y u mad tho?

  • Mohammed Usama Sheriff

    no matter how much we shout at apple and its crazy fanbase .. lets agree their designs are more than iconic ! they are are smooth subtle masterpieces ! they deserve all the applause they are getting ! they did what no company could sustain upon not that other companies couldnt produce excellent designs ! if only they wer focused at doing what they do the best instead of competing with apple ! i sense a turn around for sony .. their new phones are awesome and the playstation tag they are just right on the track ,…. only if they werent using android **sigh***

  • tornacious

    You’re not envious, hmm?

  • Brandon Dillon

    I’m currently attending university to hopefully one day get this guy’s job. Every time he speaks about Apple’s products, I feel like I’m trying to reach for the stars.

    I’d love to be able to sit down and chat with him; hear what inspires him, what would he like to do if he wasn’t with Apple making the worlds most desired products. Hopefully he writes an autobiography one day.

  • Elliot George

    How will computer engineering help you replace the job of an industrial designer?