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.