Apple's Jony Ive on design: 'The most important thing is that you care'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Apple design chief Jony Ive gave insight into the mindset that guides his design process, revealing what he described as a "fanatical" attention to detail.



 





"We are both fanatical in terms of care and attention to things people don't see immediately," Ive said of himself and fellow designer Marc Newson, who also participated in the interview. "It's like finishing the back of a drawer. Nobody's going to see it, but you do it anyway. Products are a form of communication — they demonstrate your value system, what you care about."



The two designers collaborated for the first time on a charity auction to be held in November at Sotheby's. Ive and Newson pulled together a collection of more than 40 objects to be auctioned for the benefit of Bono's Product (Red) anti-H.I.V. campaign. Among those objects will be a special Leica camera designed by Ive and Newson, as well as a metal desk also designed by the two in collaboration. Also on auction, a pair of 18-karat gold Apple EarPods.



The camera in particular met with praise upon its unveiling, with observers hailing the minimalist aesthetic that typifies other Ive-designed products. Apple's design guru says that the design process that yields such devices often starts with materials, not a preconceived notion of a certain look.



"We seldom talk about shapes," Ive said of his conversations with Newson. "We talk about processes and materials and how they work."



Newson concurred, "It's not about form, really — it's about a lot of other things.

 





Ive also expressed some unhappiness that designers are moving away from physical interactions with materials and toward conceptualizing products almost entirely in computer modeling programs.



"Now we have people graduating from college," Ive said, "who don't know how to make something themselves. It's only then that you understand the characteristics of a material and how you honor that in the shaping. Until you've actually pushed metal around and done it yourself, you don't understand.”



Of the process that goes into shaping devices like the iPhone, Ive said that the critical aspects are care and effort. The designer noted that "the most important thing is that you actually care, that you do something to the best of your ability."



Ive expects that the camera he and Newson designed could fetch as much as $6 million at auction, due in large part to the number of man-hours that went into the construction of the one-of-a-kind device. The Ive-designed Leica's design and manufacture process took more than nine months, with 947 prototype parts and 561 models tested in the process. Apple says 55 engineers assisted at some point in the process, with the total number of hours amounting to 2,149. One engineer spent 50 hours assembling the final product.



Now simply known as Senior Vice President of Design for Apple, Ive is in charge not only of the way the company's hardware looks, but also its software. Ive was the driving force behind the bright, "flat" aesthetic of Apple's iOS 7 mobile operating system. His work for the company has resulted in considerable accolades over the years.



Ive was knighted in 2011 in recognition of his "services to design and enterprise. In 2012, the entire 16-person Apple design team accepted an award for being the best design studio of the last 50 years. Earlier this year, Ive accepted a Blue Peter badge from the Children's BBC, an award given out previously to personalities such as David Beckham, JK Rowling, Tom Daley, Damian Hirst, and The Queen.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 50
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,435member

    "We are both fanatical in terms of care and attention to things people don't see immediately," Ive said of himself

    Funny, that's exactly what Steve's father taught Steve to do. From the bio:

    “I thought my dad’s sense of design was pretty good,” he said, “because he knew how to build anything. If we needed a cabinet, he would build it. When he built our fence, he gave me a hammer so I could work with him.”
    Fifty years later the fence still surrounds the back and side yards of the house in Mountain View. As Jobs showed it off to me, he caressed the stockade panels and recalled a lesson that his father implanted deeply in him. It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. “He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”
  • Reply 2 of 50
    dilliodillio Posts: 106member
    Sorry Ive, you should stick with hardware, based on how to did with iOS7...
  • Reply 3 of 50
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    Apple says 55 engineers assisted at some point in the process, with the total number of hours amounting to 2,149. One engineer spent 50 hours assembling the final product.

    way to go, apple. that's engineering time that should have been spent blowing glass for my bigger iphone display.
  • Reply 4 of 50

    t-shirt, unshaven, hand in pocket.... and you too can be a top end designer /s 

     

    just goes to show really, that great minds do think alike. 

  • Reply 5 of 50
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dillio View Post



    Sorry Ive, you should stick with hardware, based on how to did with iOS7...

     

    Dammit Jim, where is the thumbs down?! 

  • Reply 6 of 50
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,647member
    Gratuitous Sammy bash: Sammy's chief designer on design: Copy Apple, plastics, feature checklist.
  • Reply 7 of 50
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    dillio wrote: »
    Sorry Ive, you should stick with hardware, based on how to did with iOS7...
    Yeah he did so poorly that iOS 7 adoption is only at 69% according to Mixpanel. I'm sure Microsoft would love to have figures like that.

    https://mixpanel.com/trends/#report/ios_7/from_date:-2,to_date:0

    I seem to remember not everyone loved Aqua when it first came out, or the first iPhone OS (it didn't even have copy/paste functionality!). Lets talk about the new iOS 2-3 years from now when it's more mature and refined.

    Btw, my 72 year old mother upgraded to iOS 7 on her iPad mini and love it.
  • Reply 8 of 50
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,699member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dillio View Post



    Sorry Ive, you should stick with hardware, based on how to did with iOS7...

     

    Sorry dillio, your opinion is less than worthless in the grand scheme of things. In fact you are not even qualified to express an opinion in this area.

  • Reply 9 of 50
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    Quote: " "It's like finishing the back of a drawer. Nobody's going to see it, but you do it anyway."

    You might do that you're a carpenter for very rich people. Personally, I'd rather have a carpenter who doesn't finish what's not seen and charges less. That frees up money to spend on things that do matter, including things that can be seen.

    I was up in my attic yesterday, Nothing up there is finished It's all bare rafters, unpainted wood, and blow-in insulation. But it keeps off the rain and helps the building to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. That's what matters.
  • Reply 10 of 50
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,699member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post



    Quote: " "It's like finishing the back of a drawer. Nobody's going to see it, but you do it anyway."



    You might do that you're a carpenter for very rich people. Personally, I'd rather have a carpenter who doesn't finish what's not seen and charges less. That frees up money to spend on things that do matter, including things that can be seen.



    I was up in my attic yesterday, Nothing up there is finished It's all bare rafters, unpainted wood, and blow-in insulation. But it keeps off the rain and helps the building to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. That's what matters.

     

    All this shows is that you just don't get it. You're the one who would look at a painting by Georges Seurat and ask what all the little dots were about.

  • Reply 11 of 50
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,647member
    inkling wrote: »
    Quote: " "It's like finishing the back of a drawer. Nobody's going to see it, but you do it anyway."

    You might do that you're a carpenter for very rich people. Personally, I'd rather have a carpenter who doesn't finish what's not seen and charges less. That frees up money to spend on things that do matter, including things that can be seen.

    I was up in my attic yesterday, Nothing up there is finished It's all bare rafters, unpainted wood, and blow-in insulation. But it keeps off the rain and helps the building to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. That's what matters.

    So instead of wood/particle board and nails, you rather have a carpenter duct tape some cardboard on the back. Hey, no one will see it.
  • Reply 12 of 50
    dilliodillio Posts: 106member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post

     

     

    Sorry dillio, your opinion is less than worthless in the grand scheme of things. In fact you are not even qualified to express an opinion in this area.


    I don't really understand what you mean. I think I can express my opinion, and I will. iOS7 is not good, and even more, it is not as polished as to justify how anal Ive seems to be in those videos of his.

  • Reply 13 of 50
    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

    You might do that you're a carpenter for very rich people. Personally, I'd rather have a carpenter who doesn't finish what's not seen and charges less.

     

    Enjoy crap. That’s the only response, really.

     

    There’s an old saying… “Only rich people can afford cheap windows.” I think you understand what it means. It rings true for everything, though. 

     

    That frees up money to spend on things that do matter, including things that can be seen.


     

    There’s another saying, less old, “Lipstick on a pig” or “crap spraypainted gold,” I guess, too. The veneer can go stuff itself if that’s all there is to the object.

     
    But it keeps off the rain and helps the building to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. That's what matters.

     

    Can’t put a spare room up there. Can’t turn it into a livable space. Too hot in summer, too cold in winter. That’s what Apple does. They make home theaters out of unfinished basements and patios out of overgrown backyards.

  • Reply 14 of 50
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,200moderator
    dillio wrote: »
    Sorry Ive, you should stick with hardware, based on how to did with iOS7...

    To be fair, that's the equivalent of the front of the drawer. He was too busy working on the back. The beauty in iOS 7 is in the parts you don't see. :p
    inkling wrote:
    I was up in my attic yesterday, Nothing up there is finished It's all bare rafters, unpainted wood, and blow-in insulation. But it keeps off the rain and helps the building to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. That's what matters.

    You may rarely look at it but you'll always feel it:

    1000

    1000

    1000

    That's their signature.

    Of course the particular details won't matter to everyone but the idea that someone has taken the time to get the details right is satisfying. When you do pick up on the small details like the colors of the charging lights on the power supplies, the invisible sleep light, the symmetry, the magnetic latches, the feel of the trackpad, the shade of metal they use, you get a sense of how many of the small details have to come together to make a good experience. It's more evident in the operating systems when you compare OS X to Windows or iOS to Android. When someone pays attention to the details, there's a sense of trust and that what matters to you matters more to them.

    Some people prefer lower prices over quality and that's ok but quality craftsmanship is to be admired wherever people put in the effort.
  • Reply 15 of 50
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Richard Getz View Post

     

    Dammit Jim, where is the thumbs down?! 


     

    On better forums. (Seems like Huddler can barely handle a thumbs up button)

  • Reply 16 of 50
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,398member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post





    Yeah he did so poorly that iOS 7 adoption is only at 69% according to Mixpanel. I'm sure Microsoft would love to have figures like that.



    https://mixpanel.com/trends/#report/ios_7/from_date:-2,to_date:0



    I seem to remember not everyone loved Aqua when it first came out, or the first iPhone OS (it didn't even have copy/paste functionality!). Lets talk about the new iOS 2-3 years from now when it's more mature and refined.



    Btw, my 72 year old mother upgraded to iOS 7 on her iPad mini and love it.

    That 69% figure is meaningless.   It's a free upgrade and people are going to take it because in spite of its deficiencies, it may have some new things that people do indeed want.   Besides, when your device gets the message that the upgrade is available, it's phrased as if you have to download it.    

     

    Much of the reaction is admittedly subjective, but when he talks about paying attention to detail and then I look at the new OS, I really have to wonder.

     

    On the upside, it seems to operate much faster than the iOS6.    You wouldn't think that would make a big difference to the experience, but even the improved speed in which emails move to the trash makes the experience much nicer. 

     

    On the downside and even though it's not all that big a deal, I think the change in icon style is a step backwards.   The new operational icons within email look like the 1st color outline icons for the Mac, decades ago.   But where I think he really screwed up is on certain Mail screens, we see icons.   On other mail screens, we see text commands.   How is that inconsistency paying attention to detail?    On at least one screen, they changed the location of the Trash, so when I first started using Mail under the new OS, I kept on hitting the wrong item.   That was an unnecessary change that shouldn't have happened.

     

    In the drive to completely abandon skeuomorphism, they took away the yellow background and rules in the Notepad.  I think that makes it look far worse.   And since when is bright yellow an intuitive color for a link.   

     

    I think the Calendar is improved from the previous version, but it's nothing special.   Contacts is boring.    It seems that the design mantra has become "no design".     They've forgotten that setting things off with shading or highlighting can improve intelligibility.    The flat bubbles in the Messages app look horrible, IMO.  It looks "cheap".  

     

    And yet, in spite of abandoning skeuomorphism, the iBooks app still has bookshelves (which I don't happen to mind).    Why?   But what's always bothered me in that app is the app's distinction between books, purchased books and PDFs.    Those are meaningless differences, IMO.    

     

    How come we can't create HTML emails with fonts and styles?    Are we back in the age of "real men don't use word processors, they use text editors"?

     

    As far as Ive's hardware designs are concerned, while they're quite beautiful, I've always had a problem with form over function.   With Jobs' obsessiveness with not having lines in the case and with "thinness" taking priority over everything else, we now have machines in which the end-user can't upgrade memory (except for some iMacs) or replace the hard disk or battery themselves.   IMO, that's a really lousy tradeoff and aside from the change in thickness, the external case design of most Apple computers hasn't changed in years.    (And they even took the DVD drive out of the iMac.   What difference does it make if the monitor on a desktop is a little thicker?  I still find using a DVD drive very useful for certain things.  I don't want to give it up.)     

     

    So I guess my evaluation of Ive is both incredibly impressed and incredibly annoyed.   

  • Reply 17 of 50

    I don't read any praise, from what I've been reading it's been more like scorn and ridicule.

    I much prefer the styling of the M9 Titanium...

  • Reply 18 of 50
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    By some or these comments you'd think that iOS 7 was created in a vacuum, created by Ive all by himself in his office. Obviously he was very much involved in the design but it was built by a large group of people, many of whom were also involved in iOS 1-6. And I think adoption rates are meaningful. Because if the word on the street was iOS 7 sucks people would be telling friends and family not to upgrade. And Apple wouldn't have sold 9 million iPhones in the first weekend on sale.

    I mentione my 72 year old mother. When she first installed iOS 7 on her iPad mini she was a little confused on how to use it. I got an email from her saying she knew she was going to hate it. Then one weekend I spent about a half hour with her walking her through some of the changes and now she loves it, especially the new multitasking. And using it on her iPad mini was as fluid as on my iPhone 5, which kind of surprised me. But all it took was a a little bit of time walking through the changes and explaining how it was very similar to what she had before.
  • Reply 19 of 50
    You would never know Jony Ives cared about iOS7, he didn't even do it himself. Marketing people did it. Fanatical attention to detail, don't see it in iOS7. Jony Ives should "retire".
  • Reply 20 of 50
    I would be happy if they would just give me back the damn drop shadows. I have to use a contrast-less 50% gray background. Everything looks blurred together.
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