Jony Ive on Apple’s design process and working with new product ‘materials’


Jony Ive

Apple’s approach to design is just as healthy as it was under Steve Jobs, according to Jony Ive. Looking ahead, Apple is building upcoming products with “materials we haven’t worked in before.” Let your imagination run wild.

The New York Times has published a follow-up Q&A with Jony Ive following its big weekend profile of Tim Cook.

Ive was quoted in the Cook story, but in this second installment we get more insight into how he sees the current state of Apple. Points of discussion include how Ive approaches product design, working with Cook, the values Steve Jobs instilled in the company, and how Ive doesn’t think “anything’s changed” since Cook became CEO.

Some of what Ive says sounds like it comes straight out of an Apple product design video. For instance:

“This is part of Steve’s legacy. Deep in the culture of Apple is this sense and understanding of design, developing and making. Form and the material and process – they are beautifully intertwined – completely connected. Unless we understand a certain material — metal or resin and plastic — understanding the processes that turn it from ore, for example – we can never develop and define form that’s appropriate.

Steve established a set of values, and he established preoccupations and tones that are completely enduring – and he established those principals with a small team of people. I’ve been ridiculously lucky to be part of it. But Tim was very much part of that team – for that last 15 or 20 years.

If you want more info on the “team,” our own Leander Kahney goes into great detail about the history of Apple’s Industrial Design group in his biography of Ive. It’s interesting that Ive seems to be recasting Cook as an instrumental part of the design process at Apple even before he was CEO. As head of operations before Jobs passed the baton, Cook was always characterized as the numbers guy who stuck to spreadsheets.

Ive says he and Cook meet about three times per week. “Heading on for two decades working with Tim, one of the things I have always admired is the quiet consideration he gives to trying to understand how he perceives something,” says Ive. “He will take the time. I think that testifies to the fact that he knows it’s important.”

In typical Apple fashion, Ive wouldn’t talk about any future products. He did drop the interesting tidbit about working with new materials for the past few years. That could possibly allude to sapphire displays in the iWatch, or maybe something else that hasn’t been rumored at all.

Make sure to read the whole interview with Ive over at the Times website.