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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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32 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: 20 Votes
32 months ago
Change the Constitution, Ive for President.
Rating: 15 Votes
32 months ago
That's Sir Jony Ive, to you! :D
Rating: 13 Votes
32 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
32 months ago

...and also discusses how Apple's approach of creating entirely new categories of products rather than simply improving on existing ones...

I love Apple as much as the next guy but, what product would that be? As far as I can see, all they have done is improve existing categories. Computer, MP3 player, phone, tablet, etc. I am not trying to pick a fight or be argumentative, either I'm being totally dense here (which could be) or Ives is in dreamland?
Rating: 8 Votes
32 months ago
That's nothing special, Jony. What he describes in this painfully mundane description of brainstorming takes place in hundreds of companies every day. The difference at Apple is that they have the money and the freedom to actually explore all of their innovations and define new classes of products in the process.

I guarantee you, if you took folks like Jony and his team and plopped them in Samsung or HP, they wouldn't be able to get anything approved. He would be completely suffocated and stifled by timid bureaucrats.

Jony's good -but he's not the only industrial design genius (or necessarily the best) out there. He's just fortunate to work for a company with a gigantic creativity war chest.

Here's hoping Tim doesn't hose that up ;)
Rating: 8 Votes
32 months ago
Totally verbose nonsense. 90% of it means nothing. I wish is answers were as stripped back and simple as his design ethos.

Translated read like this:

Q. Hey Jo(h)nny, how do Apple go about designing and making things?

A. Well, its like everyone else, we brainstorm, we prototype, test and then we build. Except we are Apple so we can't say that. We do things differently, well we give the illusion its done differently. And then you fanbois worship us. Lolcatz.
Rating: 8 Votes
32 months ago

Change the Constitution, Ive for President.


Because I need more people looking into my private life?
Rating: 8 Votes
32 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.



This is a draft of an digital audio player (properly named DAP) that was filed for a patent application in 1981, which predates the (overwhelmingly overrated) holy grail iPod by about TWENTY YEARS.



Then of course there were a boatload of other viable mp3 player options even before the iPod, and even more during the early 2000's some of which were far superior to iPods (check iAudio aka Cowon). To this day, since the existence of Cowon, iPods have been inferior, but like the stereotype goes, its true that people go for the brand/logo rather than the functionality. Apple's yet to release an iPod with real EQ settings, battery that lasts more than 40 hours, open source video codec support, a removable battery, decent sound quality (ipods have always scored worst) and my personal favourite; being forced/locked down to iTunes to transfer your own media to the device but not being allowed to take it back without the use of 3rd party applications.

As for almost all of Apple's products, theyve all been evolutionary. When you look past the media hype and the brainwashing thats been done from Steve Jobs' reality distortion field, theyve never really 'revolutionized' anything; they took GUI, the mouse and networking from Xerox, their mp3 player was just a rehashing of the old, almost none of their product's components are their own, the iPhone is simply an easy to use but reliable phone (nothing more).

But I'll give Apple credit where its due;

They really know how to make user interfaces.... DAMN WELL. Their products aesthetic design is amazing. Their software and advertising of their products is as reliable as they claim it to be (unlike Microsoft).

And OS X....

This is what bugs me most. Of all the platforms that Apple's been selling, OS X has been the slowest to take off. People went crazy over iPods. Theyre obsessed with iPhones. And now the insane loyalty and behaviour for the company has been furthered by the iPad (a product which I see as most useless in Apple's lineup).

But the BEST product Apple has had, OS X, nobody even bothers to say 'Yeah, I really like OS X over Windows' but rather you hear people saying 'I want or a MacBook' without acknowleding the fact that OS X is the reason why Apple's *real* computers have been so good.

:confused::confused::confused:
Rating: 7 Votes
32 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: 7 Votes

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