Apple design: Jonathan Ive design interview quotes

This article contains a collection of quotes on industrial design from former Apple chief designer Jonathan Ive (or “Jony Ive,” as Steve Jobs called him). As an interesting note, Mr. Ive prefers to refer to himself as a “builder” or “maker” as opposed to a designer.

For those who don’t know of him, Jonathan Ive is credited with designing almost every Apple product from 1997 until roughly 2020. I (re)discovered Apple with an iPod in 2004, and given that very long string of success, I became interested in what Mr. Ive has to say about design, and to that end, here’s a collection of Jonathan Ive design interview quotes I’ve gathered over the last few years.

Jonathan Ive’s short quotes on design

These short quotes are pulled from longer Jonathan Ive design interviews, which I include below. (I’m skipping the double quotes on all these, but all of these quotes are from Mr. Ive.)

  • care deeply
  • look to be wrong
  • attention to detail
  • reduce and reduce
  • form and colour defines your perception
  • solve a problem in a way that acknowledges its context
  • the obviousness of everything
  • get rid of anything that isn't absolutely essential
  • ask, do we need that?
  • make the very best product
  • make it a compelling product
  • how do we want people to feel about it?

These other short quotes have been written about Mr. Ive and the products he has designed:

  • an extra something that would “tap into a product’s underlying emotion”
  • his design process revolves around intense iteration

Personally, I recommend taking these Jonathan Ive design interview quotes and putting them on a notecard or sheet of paper, and placing them where you can see them all the time. I’m not a designer, but I’ve put my favorite quotes on index cards next to my desk, which you can see here.

Full quotes

While I personally enjoy the short Jonathan Ive quotes shown above, it may help to see them in their original context, and to that end, here are the complete, original Jonathan Ive design quotes.

From a Design Museum Jonathan Ive interview:

“I figured out some basic stuff ... that form and colour defines your perception of the nature of an object, whether or not it is intended to.”

“I was really only interested in design. I was neither interested, nor good, at building a business.”

“Apple stood for something and had a reason for being that wasn’t just about making money.”

On Apple: “The defining qualities are about use: ease and simplicity. Caring beyond the functional imperative, we also acknowledge that products have a significance way beyond traditional views of function.”

Jonathan Ive quotes from a Business Week article:

“One of the hallmarks of the team is this sense of looking to be wrong. It’s the inquisitiveness, and sense of exploration. It’s about being excited to be wrong, because then you’ve discovered something new.”

Quotes from another interview:

“I want to see a problem solved in a way that acknowledges its context.”

“We try to solve very complicated problems without letting people know how complicated the problem was. That’s the appropriate thing.”

From a Wired interview:

About the Mac G5: “There’s an applied style of being minimal and simple, and then there’s real simplicity. This looks simple because it really is.”

“We wanted to get rid of anything other than what was absolutely essential, but you don’t see that effort. We kept going back to the beginning again and again. Do we need that part? Can we get it to perform the function of the other four parts?”

“It became an exercise to reduce and reduce, but it makes it easier to build, and easier for people to work with.”

“People have disconnected function from cosmetics,” he said, with a shake of his head.

“From a designer’s point of view, it’s not an appearance game we’re playing. It is very utilitarian. It’s the use of material in a very minimalist way.”

Jonathan Ive interviews and quotes on design: Sources

I’ve collected these Jonathan Ive design interview quotes over the last few years, and have most of them printed out. Going back and looking online for these design quotes, I found several of them at these two links:

(Sorry, there is one more Jonathan Ive interview I referred to here, but I only have a poor printout of it, and I can’t make out what website or magazine I found it in.)

If you’re interested in great design, I highly recommend reading this brief article on the Dieter Rams Ten Design Principles. As you’ll see from that article, Dieter Rams has been a huge influence on Apple design.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these Jonathan Ive (not Ives) design quotes. I thought about adding some commentary here, but I’ll just go with the minimalist approach, and let these quotes speak for themselves.

Update: Jonathan Ive quotes from a 2014 Vogue article

As time goes on, Mr. Ive continues to give more interviews. Here are some quotes from this article in Vogue, which was printed just after the Apple Watch was introduced:

  • About Steve Jobs: I think he better than anyone understood that while ideas ultimately can be so powerful, they begin as fragile, barely formed thoughts.
  • So much of my background is about making, physically doing it myself.
  • There’s an odd irony here, I think our goal is that you would have a sense that it wasn’t design.
  • I find that when I write I need things to be quiet, but when I design, I can’t bear it if it’s quiet.
  • About struggling with technology: Isn’t that curious? Because if you tasted some food that you didn’t think tasted right, you would assume that the food was wrong. But for some reason, it’s part of the human condition that if we struggle to use something, we assume that the problem resides with us.
  • Ive talks about feeling a little apart, like Jobs: When you feel that the way you interpret the world is fairly idiosyncratic, you can feel somewhat ostracized and lonely (big laugh) and I think that we both perceived the world in the same way.
  • I think now more than ever it’s important to be clear, to be singular, and to have a perspective, one you didn’t generate as the result of doing a lot of focus groups.
  • Developing concepts and creating prototypes leads to “fascinating conversations” with his team, says Ive. “It’s a process I’ve been practicing for decades, but I still have the same wonder.”
  • My boys are ten, and I like spending time with them doing stuff that I did, which is drawing and making things—real things, not virtual things.
  • I think it’s important that we learn how to draw and to make something and to do it directly. To understand the properties you’re working with by manipulating them and transforming them yourself.
  • “It’s strange when you’ve been working on something for three years . . .” he says, shaking his head.
  • Everything we’ve been trying to do, it’s that pursuit of the very pure and very simple.
  • You know how very often technology tends to inhibit rather than enable more nuanced, subtle communication?


I hope you’ve enjoyed the Jonathan Ive quotes about design.