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Jony Ive Discusses Apple's Creative Design Processes

In a rare interview, Apple design chief Jony Ive participated in a Q&A exchange with the London Evening Standard, offering his perspective on a number of topics including how the design process works at Apple.
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.
Ive talks more about how deeply prototyping is ingrained in the design process at Apple, and also discusses how Apple's approach of creating entirely new categories of products rather than simply improving on existing ones "exercises the skills" of Ive and his team.
It’s not a problem you’re aware of, nobody has articulated a need. But you start asking questions: what if we do this, combine it with that, would that be useful? This creates opportunities that could replace entire categories of device rather than tactically responding to an individual problem. That’s the real challenge and very exciting.
By trying to create new classes of products that people don't even realize they need until they are unveiled, the process results in incredible freedom and excitement, but significant challenges for the designers.

Top Rated Comments

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33 months ago
I think many would prefer Sir Jony Ive to present Apple's keynotes over Tim Cook, all due respect to Mr. Cook.
Rating: 15 Votes
33 months ago
That's Sir Jony Ive, to you! :D
Rating: 10 Votes
33 months ago
why do we look to deify people? He's a charismatic designer who hit it off with another charismatic visionary at the right time and at the right place and were able to make huge strides in consumer electronics. Lets celebrate that rather than look for Steve Jobs in every charismatic Apple employee. The company has become so big, it can no longer be run as a single man's domain.
Rating: 9 Votes
33 months ago
Change the Constitution, Ive for President.
Rating: 7 Votes
33 months ago

I think many would prefer Sir Jony Ive to present Apple's keynotes over Tim Cook, all due respect to Mr. Cook.


Agreed, although I think Sir Jony Ive prefers to stay in his studio/lab making the magic happen.
Rating: 6 Votes
33 months ago
Interesting the difference of starting points:

Jony Ive: "It’s not a problem you’re aware of, nobody has articulated a need. But you start asking questions: what if we do this, combine it with that, would that be useful? "

Open Source: "Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer's personal itch."

Somehow I think Jony Ive's approach has worked better so far.


"Hey! Da Vinci - how do you do the great paintings?" "Well, I look, then I dip the brush in the paint and move it around on the canvas. Easy, no?".


"I start with a huge block of marble, and then I remove everything that doesn't belong there". Can't remember who said that.
Rating: 5 Votes
33 months ago

Change the Constitution, Ive for President.


Because I need more people looking into my private life?
Rating: 5 Votes
33 months ago
I'd much rather listen to a keynote from Forstal and Ive than the two guys we had last week. Let the CEO talk market numbers and such, then hand the stage over.
Rating: 5 Votes
33 months ago
imagine being able to see every prototype Apple has ever made.
Rating: 4 Votes
33 months ago

The iPod was more than an MP3 player improvement. It was huge (in terms of storage space), personal, portable, storage for your music. Everything out there at the time held far less music or was far bigger and it was making an assumption that people would drop cash to have all their music with them pretty much all the time. The iPod was super ambitious and it was more than just an improvement unless you just want to call everything an improvement in that there was something like it beforehand. But then you get into saying something like well the iPod is really just an improvement on the sony walkman tape player because it served largely the same function.

But even you have to admit the iPhone was really revolutionary. It was true internet in your pocket made simple enough that the masses could use it nearly instantly. In case you don't remember, there was a time when you simply had an iPhone and the internet with you at all times or you didn't. The other smartphones that folks carried (largely blackberries) couldn't do anything on the internet with any speed that was beyond excruciating. The internet was the iPhone's killer app and it was available from day one.

Finally the iPad took the iPhone and said the realities of human scale means the phone size is too small for many tasks. Let's make it bigger even though we are asking people to carry what in someways is a duplicative device was the genius move. Getting a screen that large, having the battery last, making it affordable and super profitable was Apple's supply chain at its best.

All game changers in my mind.

I stand by my statement. Apple has not CREATED a new product category - all they have done is improve (or revolutionize as you like to call it) existing products. Game changers maybe, creating new categories, not so much.
Rating: 4 Votes

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