Four things I've learned from Jonathan Ive interviews

With Apple's iPad 3 announcement coming tomorrow (March 7, 2012), I took a few minutes last night to reflect on various Jonathan Ive interviews I've read over the years. Here are a few notes on what I learned by reading those interviews.

1) Invest in great tools

Jonathan Ive often talks about how the Apple design team doesn't have a lot of things you might expect, but they do have great "tools". In his case, that means great tools for prototyping, presumably fabricating different hardware designs.

In my life as a software developer and part-time designer, the equivalent for me is having great development tools, including programming languages, IDE's, prototyping, testing, and debugging tools. If a tool you're using is crap, find another one, or write one yourself.

In my life as a writer,"great tools" means having great tools for writing, including several software tools I've written for myself. Just yesterday I had a smile on my face because of some recent changes I made for my blogging tools here at As a designer, it's a great feeling when something works the way you want it to work, and you can't think of any other way to make it work better.

A tremendous benefit of having great tools is that you can iterate through a large quantity of designs in the shortest possible time. As was written in the book Blink, "Quantity leads to quality."

I was recently reminded of this again when I designed the cover for my new eBook, How I Sold My Business: A Personal Diary. Whether or not you like that cover, the important part for me is that I was able to do go through a total of 545 iterations of different designs before going with this particular design.

2) Set up a great work environment

Mr. Ive has also talked about having a great work environment. Of course this can be taken to mean a lot of things, and different things for different people. As a designer, it can mean having music piped in throughout the building, having big open spaces, or something as simple as a kitchen where everyone can get together, share pizza, and informally talk about ideas.

As a programmer and writer, I'm still learning what I like in my own work environment, but I recently re-arranged my office space a little bit, and I have a nice sound system set up, good lighting, and a brand new desk that I love.

I encourage you to reflect on this: What do you want/need in your own work environment to make you happy and productive? If you're going to spend eight hours a day working, shouldn't you have a terrific, productive work environment?

3) Sweat the details ("Care deeply")

A lot of people say, "Don't sweat the small stuff", but in design, and in many other areas, it's all about the small stuff, isn't it?

One thing I'll also add here is this: It's a lot easier to sweat the small stuff -- all those little details that make a product great -- when you really enjoy what you do for a living. That's why I say so often, "If you don't like what you're doing for a living, please, go do something else."

4) One more thing

Offer "one more thing" in your products, that little something else that makes the customer think, "Wow, this dude nailed it." Mr. Ive has added great features to his products, from little things he added to ball point pens to features in larger products like Mac workstations, things that give you that feeling that he really thought about what he was doing, and really tried to think like the customer.

In the blogging tool I just updated, I just did the same thing by adding automatic word completion (like what TextMate does, but with a dictionary backing it up), and a nice approach to make adding hyperlinks as easy as possible. I could have lived with the tool the way it was, but now I love it.

More Jonathan Ive interviews

I encourage you to go to your favorite search engine, type in "Jonathan Ive", and read some stories about Mr. Ive, especially the ones that have quotes directly from him. Or, for a fast summary, I just created this "Jonathan Ive design interview quotes" page. He may not share a lot in his interviews, but he does share some of his design philosophy and beliefs, and they make for good reading.

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