Jony Ive Details Apple Design Process, iPhone 6 Design Choices in New Interview

jony_iveApple's head of design Jony Ive today gave a live interview at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. In the interview, which BusinessInsider attended, Ive gave some rare insight into the design process at Apple and some of the design choices the team made with the iPhone 6.

According to Ive, he has a great design team that's quite small, numbering 16 or 17 employees. During a typical day, Ive says that designers gather around tables like those in the Apple Store to draw. The team meets three or four times a week.

One of the major advantages of being part of a design team that's been together so long is that it's given them time to develop a design process. Ideas, Ive says, don't really come along until the design team has created a physical object from their drawings. "It really galvanizes and focuses our team," said Ive.

When asked whether or not he had experienced a "eureka moment" in a design meeting, Ive pointed towards the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus, saying that there's a "special moment" when there's an object you can touch. He says he's surprised and thrilled every time he gets to see a new first model.

On the iPhone 6's rounded edges, Ive says that Apple opted to go back to rounded edges because they were necessary to make the device feel less wide. Apple made bigger-screened prototypes years before, but they were "clunky."

Ive also shared details on Steve Jobs, saying that Jobs was "the most remarkably focused person" he'd ever met in his life. "You can achieve so much when you truly focus," Ive said. "What focus means is saying no to something that with every bone in your body you think is a phenomenal idea. And you wake up thinking about it, but you say no to it because you're focusing on something else."


During audience questions, Ive gave some interesting thoughts on Xiaomi, the Chinese manufacturer that closely copies Apple's designs. Ive says what Xiaomi is doing is theft, not flattery.

There is a danger...I don't see it as flattery. I see it as theft. (Talking about copying designs in general). When you're doing something for the first time and you don't know it's going to work. I have to be honest the last thing I think is "Oh, that is flattering. All those weekends I could've been home with my family...I think it's theft and lazy. I don't think it's OK at all."

The full paraphrased text of Ive's interview, where he also shares why he chose to be an industrial designer, what he thought was well designed as a kid, how he came to work at Apple, and his thoughts on Steve Jobs, can be found over at BusinessInsider. Both TechCrunch and The Verge have shared details on the interview as well.

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Top Rated Comments

vigorblade Avatar
126 months ago
He still works weekends ??

That one comment where he mentions missing weekends with his family to help produce these products really made me stop for a second. When we see super successful people and people who make enormous amounts of money, we tend to not consider their ongoing sacrifices. We see someone like Ives and we often just assume that at his level, there is no longer a need for continuous late nights and weekends working.

You just figure that they work a few hours a day and then go home to take a dip in vault of money or whatever really rich people do (Think Uncle Scrooge of Duck Tales). You know for sure they don't work weekends. The fact is when you get to the top, sometimes you have to work harder than ever before to maintain that status. I actually really admire those who continue to be driven, even at the top and don't just become totally dependent on the hard work of the young talent around them to get things done, then show up for the award ceremonies.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
benkirton Avatar
126 months ago
Bragging about design with a protruding lens, hideous antenna lines and the bending factor? Mhm.

Do you know what the trade-offs were for those? What would an attractive (to you) antenna design have meant for signal strength, device width, battery life etc?

What about the 2000 other design decisions that were made that you do like or don't notice?

It's a bit like the old "Messages doesn't order my message correctly on my iPhone so I'm moving to Android" argument. One compromised design piece does not a bad complete product make.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Dilster3k Avatar
126 months ago
Bragging about design with a protruding lens, hideous antenna lines and the bending factor? Mhm.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DoctorKrabs Avatar
126 months ago
Bragging about design with a protruding lens, hideous antenna lines and the bending factor? Mhm.

Enough.

The iPhone 6 is 6.9mm thin, and the thinnest smartphone camera module ever made, without a lens, is 5.5mm thin.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lennholm Avatar
126 months ago
When asked whether or not he had experienced a "eureka moment" in a design meeting, Ive pointed towards the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus
Reading between the lines: "That's when I realized that all the Android people were right all along".

Gotta say, I find Ive's uncharacteristic public enthusiasm for the iPhone 6(+) and Apple Watch designs, some of his least impressive designs imo, a bit troubling.

Sheesh … it looks fine. My guess is he would say it was necessary, and every consideration was made to avoid it, but a lens system needs some depth to have good optics. I'd rather have a protruding lens than a thicker device overall. Slap a nice case on it and it's all good-n-flush.
I'd rather have a thicker, non-wobbly device with a bigger battery. Are you really saying the iPhone 5S wasn't thin enough?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
d4rkc4sm Avatar
126 months ago
someone should ask him directly if he likes the protruding lens.

if he says yes, then he is a liar and a poser
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)