I don't consider myself an Apple fanboy — for instance, I think whoever is designing Apple software these days is making things overly complicated (with OS X 10.7 through 10.12) — but I am a Jonathan Ive hardware design fanboy. I have a great respect for the industrial design work he and his team do. It’s safe to say that if I were in college these days I’d be studying industrial design instead of the aerospace engineering degree I got way back when.
I just came across a new interview with Mr. Ive at a website called the London Evening Standard, and it has some excellent design quotes in it. I’ll share some of the best quotes from that article here.
Jonathan Ive design interview quotes
Q: What makes design different at Apple?
We struggle with the right words to describe the design process at Apple, but it is very much about designing and prototyping and making. When you separate those, I think the final result suffers.
If something is going to be better, it is new, and if it’s new you are confronting problems and challenges you don’t have references for. To solve and address those requires a remarkable focus. There’s a sense of being inquisitive and optimistic, and you don’t see those in combination very often.
(Personal note: I know that when I work by myself, or when I work on a team that doesn't seem to work together well, that the combination of being "inquisitive" and "optimistic" is hard to find. In my own work I have to completely forget about a sense of money, and about how much time it's taking to get a product right. I just have to immerse myself in the product, and not quit working on it until I'm satisfied.
What Mr. Ive describes is also very similar to what you'll hear people like Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman say when they're talking about the scientific "discovery" process.)
Q: How does a new product come about at Apple?
What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, but it is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea. I find that incredibly exciting and conceptually actually remarkable.
The nature of having ideas and creativity is incredibly inspiring. There is an idea which is solitary, fragile and tentative and doesn’t have form. What we’ve found here is that it then becomes a conversation, although remains very fragile.
When you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you made 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.
Q: What makes a great designer?
It is so important to be light on your feet, inquisitive and interested in being wrong. You have that wonderful fascination with the "what if" questions, but you also need absolute focus and a keen insight into the context and what is important - that is really terribly important. Its about contradictions you have to navigate.
(Later in the interview) That fanatical attention to detail and coming across a problem and being determined to solve it is critically important.
Q: How do you know you’ve succeeded?
It’s a very strange thing for a designer to say, but one of the things that really irritates me in products is when I’m aware of designers wagging their tails in my face.
Our goal is simple objects, objects that you can’t imagine any other way. Simplicity is not the absence of clutter. Get it right, and you become closer and more focused on the object. For instance, the iPhoto app we created for the new iPad, it completely consumes you and you forget you are using an iPad.
Q: Do consumers really care about good design?
One of the things we’ve really learnt over the last 20 years is that while people would often struggle to articulate why they like something - as consumers we are incredibly discerning, we sense where has been great care in the design, and when there is cynicism and greed.
(From another part of the interview) I think people know there is tremendous care behind the finished product.
The complete Jonathan Ive interview
Again, here's a link to the complete interview with Mr. Ive.
As an admitted fanboy of his hardware design, I've written about other Jonathan Ive interviews in these articles: