This London, a week ago, conducted a rare interview with Apple’s design chief Jony Ive wherein the influential designer toucheed upon a number of issues, including what makes design at Apple so special and tough for competitors to duplicate.
Regarding what makes design at Apple so different, Ive explains that it’s a confluence of design and prototyping. When those variables are worked on independently of one another, the final result suffers as a result. One of the challenges in design, Ive notes, is that when you’re creating something completely new, as Apple has been known to do, there’s no blueprint to refer back to. Designers are trusted to pave their own way, confronting and solving new problems as they appear. This, Ive explains, requires an immense amount of focus.
Speaking to the design of a new product, Ive says that when he transforms an idea into a 3D model, it becomes less of a murky idea and changes everything. “The entire process shifts.”
As for Apple’s goals when designing a new product, Ive drives home a point Steve Jobs and other executives at Apple seemed to stress quite often, namely that if they can’t make a product that’s better than what the rest of the market offers, they’re not even going to waste their time.
When asked why Apple’s rivals often struggle to succeed in the realm of design, Ive responded:
Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us — a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better.
Regarding Apple’s process when designing a product and the different ways ideas and product initiatives can come about, Ive adds:
There are different approaches — sometimes things can irritate you so you become aware of a problem, which is a very pragmatic approach and the least challenging. What is more difficult is when you are intrigued by an opportunity. That, I think, really exercises the skills of a designer. 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.
And briefly touching on software, Ive notes that the end goal of every product is to get the product out of the way and have the user focus on the actual experience. As an example, Ive mentions the newly released iPhoto app for the iPad, which Ive notes “consumes you” and makes you forget you’re even using an iPad.
Check out the entire interview over here.