Apple's Ive describes struggle for perfection in interview, calls copycat designs 'theft'

Posted:
in General Discussion edited March 2014
In an interview published on Sunday, Apple SVP of Design Jony Ive lifted a corner to Apple's veil of secrecy, offering a peek into his process of "making" and how an Apple product stands apart from other designs.

Jony Ive
Apple design chief Jony Ive discusses a special curated (RED) auction in 2013. | Source: Sotheby's


Sitting down for a rare in-depth interview (subscription required) as part of UK publication The Sunday Times' "Makers" series, Ive speaks candidly about working at Apple, the state of design and his thoughts on rival products.

While the article touches on a multitude of subjects, from Ive's early days as a fledgling designer to his relationship to late cofounder Steve Jobs, the through line is Apple. After entering the company in 1992, Ive now leads a team of "about 15" designers from Britain, America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Most members of the small cadre have worked together for 15 to 20 years, Ive says.

As for workflow, Ive starts each project by working out a product's function before applying form. He takes this theory of industrial design to the next level, sometimes poring over details for months. Ive says this quest for perfection is "an affliction designers are cursed with."

Ive does not consider any single device design to be his best work, but instead points to an idea that customers still value high-quality craftsmanship. That Apple has seen such huge success with its devices, which are by no means cheap, proves that many consumers still put value in quality over savings.

"We're surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects," Ive said. "It's tempting to think it's because the people who use them don't care -- just like the people who make them. But what we've shown is that people do care."

He goes on to explain that consumers who buy Apple products don't simply like an iPhone or Mac because it looks pretty, but because "they care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made.""We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things. Our success is a victory for purity, integrity -- for giving a damn." - Apple SVP of Design Jony Ive

"We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things," Ive said. "Our success is a victory for purity, integrity -- for giving a damn."

The designer also talks about the difficulties of making a tech product "intimate," a subject Ive has touched on before in product launches like the iPhone 5s.

"The product you have in your hand, or put into your ear, or have in your pocket, is more personal than the product you have on your desk," Ive explains. "The struggle to make something as difficult and demanding as technology so intimately personal is what first attracted me to Apple. People have an incredibly personal relationship with what we make."

On that note, reporter John Arlidge asks Ive about the much-rumored "iWatch," a product that would by most definitions be intimate in design. The designer expectedly avoids answering, likening the usual cat-and-mouse questioning on future products to a game of chess.

When asked about his thoughts on rival companies that reference designs like that of the iPhone, Ive says, "It's theft." Without pointing fingers, he notes that copycat products are not just copying design, but "thousands and thousands of hours of struggle."

Ive and his design group have churned out a number of now-iconic Apple designs, including the iMac G3, the original iPod and iPhone.

The best years may be ahead, however, as Ive says, "We are at the beginning of a remarkable time, when a remarkable number of products will be developed. When you think about technology and what it has enabled us to do so far, and what it will enable us to do in [the] future, we're not even close to any kind of limit. It's still so, so new."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 156
    Ask yourself, what Samsung product will ever be in a museum as an example of innovation or art?

    If anything, there might be Samsung LCDs displaying the history of Apple products ;)

    I jest ;)
  • Reply 2 of 156
    Well said
  • Reply 3 of 156
    enzosenzos Posts: 344member
    Bravo, Sir Jony!

    To maintain integrity in the face of resounding popular and financial success must be the hardest thing of all to achieve; especially in a public company!

    - iP5 and MB Air owner and Mac user since 1987
  • Reply 4 of 156
    nikiloknikilok Posts: 383member
    I love the genuine thought process of Sir Johny Ive. Amazing how a little over a dozen designers design products the world values.
  • Reply 5 of 156
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member

    The world would be such a better place if everyone valued quality as much.

  • Reply 6 of 156
    irikalirikal Posts: 8member
    People do value design...do value other giving a damn about what they get for their hard earned money. At least a number of people do.

    I vote with my wallet... always will. I stopped buying Samdung and other companies stuff because of that exact reason.. they don't give a damn.. and if they do, it is not reflected in the quality of their products. Just recently, i purchased a new router... I wanted to get something that would "just work" and take care of my backups for me.

    I could have gone the Netgear or Cisco or whatever else way and add an external HDD connected to it.
    I decided to fork out 300$ for a Time Capsule because............i just works. I don't have to have 2-3 boxes on my desk, it is stylish and it's one less hassle for me. That's why I pay a premium... because i don't need to fiddle and fumble on what i purchased.... Why do you (all of you) pay that premium?
  • Reply 7 of 156
    blitz1blitz1 Posts: 410member
    the iPhone... I use it, and I use it well. But it's just a phone. There's nothing intimate with it.
    And sometimes, it's even complicated to do easy stuff with it!
  • Reply 8 of 156
    pedromartinspedromartins Posts: 1,333member
    Honest questions: are there any phones being sold since 2012 that look even remotely similar with the iPhone or iPad? Does someone even think that the 100 million people that bought a galaxy S or note last year, did it because they thought that they were buying iPhones? Do we really see Android as a stolen product instead of an Amazing viable alternative?

    Please, let's be rational here. If Apple wants those costumers, cut the crap and give them a product that they want to buy instead of a dressing only the needs of half the premium market. The argument of copying died with Steve, we have different distinct products and a huge number of people pay the same amount of money for other products for a reason.
  • Reply 9 of 156
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by iRikal View Post



    Why do you (all of you) pay that premium?

    I pay because badly made things make me sad. I can't help thinking about the poor soul that made it, and feel sorry for them.

  • Reply 10 of 156
    foadfoad Posts: 697member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pedromartins View Post



    Honest questions: are there any phones being sold since 2012 that look even remotely similar with the iPhone or iPad? Does someone even think that the 100 million people that bought a galaxy S or note last year, did it because they thought that they were buying iPhones? Do we really see Android as a stolen product instead of an Amazing viable alternative?



    Please, let's be rational here. If Apple wants those costumers, cut the crap and give them a product that they want to buy instead of a dressing only the needs of half the premium market. The argument of copying died with Steve, we have different distinct products and a huge number of people pay the same amount of money for other products for a reason.

     

    Well the argument can be made that the copying and massive amounts of advertising is what pushed Samsung to its market position. No other manufacturer is doing the volume or revenue that Samsung is. Also, Samsung isn't accused of only copying hardware, but software as well. Only after the lawsuits did they take steps to stop copying. Regardless, Apple is still defending its patents in active court cases, which is why these questions still come up.

     

    Regarding your statements about competing products; a large amount of people buy Samsung and other competing phones purely due to the size of the screen or to a much smaller degree, their desire to use Android. Additionally, carriers push Android devices because of kickbacks from manufacturers. That isn't even taking into consideration a lot of the bundling that happens with Android devices. Anecdotally, I know quite a few people that prefer iOS to Android but they like larger screens. Truth be told, I would like a 4.7" screen. Apple has made to not release a larger screen device yet and they have stated it is due to not wanting to compromise certain things, including color reproduction and battery life. I think with the new display tech on the market, things are aligning and Apple will release a larger screen device this year.

  • Reply 11 of 156
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,195moderator
    The full article is behind a pay wall but 9to5mac took screenshots:

    http://9tomac.com/2014/03/16/sunday-times-interviews-jonathan-ive-on-everything-design-apple-and-much-more/

    (put the 5 in the link).
  • Reply 12 of 156

    "We're surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects," Ive said. "It's tempting to think it's because the people who use them don't care — just like the people who make them. But what we've shown is that people do care."

     

    This is great quote. And it encapsulates the main reason why I was (finally) drawn to Apple products in the first place. Most people "don't care". But I'm thinking that more and more people *will* care in the future and that will pay off for Apple even more than it is now...

     

    Sony seems to be the only one of the direct competitors that have the capacity to understand this *and* execute on it. It took it's sweet time but I think they are currently the closest to competing with Apple on similar terms.

     

    And it seems to be paying off for them too...

  • Reply 13 of 156
    irelandireland Posts: 17,522member
    iTV, pls
  • Reply 14 of 156
    freediverxfreediverx Posts: 1,403member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post



    iTV, pls

     

    If you mean an actual television set, that's unlikely. The profit margins are slim and most people don't upgrade their TVs every few years. 

  • Reply 15 of 156
    freediverxfreediverx Posts: 1,403member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pedromartins View Post



    Honest questions: are there any phones being sold since 2012 that look even remotely similar with the iPhone or iPad? Does someone even think that the 100 million people that bought a galaxy S or note last year, did it because they thought that they were buying iPhones? Do we really see Android as a stolen product instead of an Amazing viable alternative?

     

    Virtually every smartphone design on the market today is heavily influenced by the iPhone. Some of us need the occasional reminder of what "smartphones" all looked like (hardware and software) before Apple's entry into the market. It's not that Android phone buyers think they're buying an iPhone but rather that they wouldn't be buying the device at all if it hadn't "borrowed" so much of its hardware and software design form the iPhone.

     

  • Reply 16 of 156
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,894member
    The thing that most people forget is that at the time of the iPhone's launch the other mobile phone makers were so far ahead of Apple in all aspects of the market. It's not like these latter day copycats were struggling backwater startups trying to bring inexpensive communication devices to the masses or the sake of benefitting humanity. They were the big megacorps with a stranglehold over the entire market and the media and used to throwing their weight around. The bold upstart new kid on the block with the crazy new idea about what a mobile device could be was Apple. Prior to its launch many pundits thought it was going to be a folly for Apple. If you want to talk about abuse of power - take a look at who held all the cards and who went on to screw their biggest customer with blatant copycat designs. Think about how you would feel if someone you'd been supporting with your business suddenly turned around and tried to take you down because they coveted what you have and had the means and technology to do so. That's sleazy on a massive scale and it's only because of the immense value in the brains of Jony Ive and his crew that the bullies were not able to prevail. Sometimes brains does beat brawn.

    I don't know what it was that turned so many good people against what is one of the best examples of American Ingenuity and icons of industry to ever come along. Was it the snarky Mac vs. PC ads? Was it Apple's refusal to get into a race to the bottom on price and commoditization? Do people really hate winners even when they rose from being the underdog? Impossible to say. But what is not impossible to say is that Samsung and others were clearly caught copying Apple designs. Even a caveman can see that fact. Unfortunately Apple did not provide a way for these copycats to "save face" and move on so the battles will continue unabated. It's really too bad because Samsung is a great company from a component and product engineering standpoint. They just can't get past the fact that they were caught with their hands in Apple's cookie jar and until they settle this ego driven conflict in their own mind, make good on their crimes, and decide to move forward on their own they will always be operating under a dark cloud and their best attempts to "one up" Apple with things like the Galaxy Gear will make them look like posers. They have the wherewithal and talent to make it work on their own but for some reason they choose not to move on.
  • Reply 17 of 156
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by freediverx View Post

     

     

    The profit margins are slim and most people don't upgrade their TVs every few years. 


    That's the real reasoning behind everything apple does, if you think that it's anything to do with having products that look cool then you've been suckered by the sales hype

  • Reply 18 of 156
    eideardeideard Posts: 371member
    Most Americans are Chevy buyers on price. The rest of the world makes the price decision and gets a VW or Toyota. The reasons haven't changed in a half-century.

    Parochial and familiar is good enough for Americans. The rest of the world is willing to make a bit more of a quality decision for their earned income. So, McMansions are big - and energy inefficient; supermarket chains rely on sugar; fashion is defined by Kohls and Walmart; and the Super Bowl provides 12 minutes of actual competitive sport in a 4-hour telecast.

    Our nation's conformity wouldn't feel so oppressive if it weren't so boring.
  • Reply 19 of 156
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,608member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by ascii View Post

     

    The world would be such a better place if everyone valued quality as much.


     

    But the world doesn’t. “Good enough” is the standard. It’s why Windows dominates the desktop OS universe. It’s why Android is on all of the cheap phones. It’s why textiles, electronics, steel, moved to China. 

  • Reply 20 of 156
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,316member
    The pu
    helicoil wrote: »
    That's the real reasoning behind everything apple does, if you think that it's anything to do with having products that look cool then you've been suckered by the sales hype
    The purpose of a corporation is to increase shareholder wealth. These companies are not charities, they need to turn a profit. The difference is that every other manufacturer is trying to gain market share so they can then increase margins later, or drop the manufacturing quality to maintain high profit margins at a lower retail price.
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