Jony Ive explains why Apple Park is a game-changer for designers

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Jony Ive CultCast
Ive in his old design studio, which holds "decades of history."
Photo: BBC

Jony Ive says he is “truly proud” of Apple Watch, which he describes as a powerful computer filled with sophisticated sensors that we strap to our wrists. And we can expect Apple to continuing delivering products that are just as special in the future.

Apple Park is a game-changer for designers that will allow better collaboration than ever before, Ive reveals in a new interview.

Ive’s future at Apple has looked uncertain in recent years. Speculation surrounding a possible departure started soon after Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs passed away in 2011. Earlier this week, however, Ive revealed he has plenty left to do in Cupertino.

And Ive is just as passionate about Apple and its products today under Tim Cook as he was when working alongside Jobs. In his latest interview with the FT, Ive gushes about the Apple Watch and talks about making Apple Park his new home.

Ive is ‘truly proud’ of Apple Watch

Ive wears the new Apple Watch Series 4, as you might expect, and he describes it as “a very powerful computer, with a range of very sophisticated sensors, that is strapped to my wrist.”

Ive likens designing the Apple Watch to developing the iPhone. It’s much more than just a timepiece, he says, in the same way that “the capability of the iPhone extends way beyond the function of what we would traditionally call a phone.”

This means Apple has a huge responsibility to society, Ive explains. When developing a brand new product, the company must consider not only the things it intends the device to do, but also the things that it may unintentionally lead to.

“Very often, so much of what a product ends up being able to do isn’t what you initially thought,” Ive tells the FT. “If you’re creating something new, it is inevitable there will be consequences that were not foreseen.”

Some of those consequences may be great, he adds, but others may not be so positive. Apple believes, then, that its responsibility doesn’t end when a product ships. “It keeps me awake,” Ive says.

Apple Watch was built by the best minds

Apple’s first wearable, which now outsells the entire analog watch market combined, is a device the company is “truly proud of,” Ive explains. And it required the expertise of so many people.

“The effort necessary to make this glass could be the product of one person,” Ive adds as he sips wine. “But the effort, expertise and collaboration to make this watch is daunting … that you can work with an expert in sapphire crystals and figure out a way to create a form which has never been created before in sapphire crystal.”

Apple Watch, like the iPod and even the iPhone, took off slowly. It wasn’t an overnight success, but it has become a key product in Apple’s lineup. Ive expects it to be even more successful following the introduction of Series 4, which he describes as the “tipping point” in understanding and adoption.

Collaboration will be even greater at Apple Park

If collaboration is what made Apple Watch so special, we can expect more of the same from Apple in the future, with its new Apple Park campus giving employees the opportunity to work together like never before, Ive reveals.

Apple Park’s enormous size has allowed the “coming together” of “different areas of creative expertise that are incredibly diverse,” Ive says. Industrial designers can now work closely with font designers, prototypers, and even haptics experts.

“The best haptic experts in the world are sat next to a bunch of guys who have PhDs in material science.” This would have never happened before, Ive adds.

Ive’s design team was one of the last to move into Apple Park, but that’s not because they were “late” — it was scheduled that way to begin with. “When you’re moving 9,000 people, you don’t do it in one day,” Ive says.

But it doesn’t seem like Apple’s design chief was too disappointed to stay a little longer a 1 Infinite Loop. Moving on “meant leaving the studio that has decades of history, where we designed and built for prototypes.”

“This is the studio I went back to on the day that Steve died,” Ive recalls. “And it’s the place where we figured out the iPhone and the iPod.”