Jony Ive discusses the future of design at Apple, Steve Jobs and more in interview

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2017
As part of the Smithsonian's 2017 American Ingenuity Awards, the organization on Wednesday conducted an interview with Apple CDO Jony Ive, who discussed the beginnings of his career, working at the world's most valuable tech company and creating products used by millions of people around the world.


Rick Tetzeli (left) interviews Jony Ive for Smithsonian Magazine. | Source: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden via Twitter


Ive appeared on stage at Washington, D.C.'s Hirshhorn Museum with Fast Company's Rick Tetzeli, who moderated the wide-ranging hour-long talk covering topics including iPhone and Apple Watch to the legacy of Steve Jobs. Tetzeli recently penned a profile on Ive, a 2017 American Ingenuity Awards honoree, that went live on Smithsonian Magazine's website today.

A number of attendees managed to record audio of the interview, including Alexander Fust&eacute, who posted a full-length version of the chat to SoundCloud.

As has been discussed in previous interviews, Ive said it was during the formative stages of his childhood that he discovered a passion for design. As the son of a silversmith who also happened to teach at the local university, Ive was exposed to the basic tenets of art and design. At Christmas, Ive's father would take him to the school's workshop, where he was able to build everything from furniture to go-karts to tree houses.

Parlaying that love of basic design to his tenure at Apple, Ive still finds the process of coming up with new ideas, and executing them, exciting.

"I love the fact that the day before there wasn't an idea. And I know that sounds naive, but isn't that incredible? That on Tuesday there's nothing except expectation and some pressure, and then on Wednesday there's an idea," Ive said.

With his team of about 20 industrial designers, all but two of whom were present at the Hirshhorn, Ive transforms ideas from words to drawings, then to physical prototypes made at Apple's studio. The process is at first exclusive, Ive said, with only a small group of people working on and communicating about the kernel of an idea. It is only when that first physical mockup is completed that abstract ideas transition into something tangible, making the process much more inclusive.

Speaking about his team, Ive said many members have been working together for 20 years.

"The advantage is that we have so much trust as a team that we don't censor our ideas because we are nervous and scared that they will sound absurd and not very compelling," Ive said.

It is this trust, and not competition, that allows product concepts to take shape. Some of the best ideas come from smallest voices, Ive noted, suggesting that the group at Apple is so successful because trust enables these voices to be heard.

Even with dozens of groundbreaking designs from iPod to iPhone and Apple Watch under their collective belt, Ive still ponders what his team might have missed along the years. Design is inherently unpredictable, a face that makes the process at once exciting and terrifying.

"I just wonder how many great ideas we missed. And I wonder how many great ideas we screwed up," Ive said. "I think that the process is a convoluted, uncertain, unpredictable one, and we are so unbelievably lucky to be doing what we love and to be a participant in this process."

As for Apple's future, Ive said Apple Park will play a big role in pushing new ideas forward. The design team's studio will reside on the fourth floor of the central ring structure and, like other areas of the campus, boasts a layout that fosters collaboration. Importantly, and for the first time, Apple's entire design team, from industrial designers to font developers, will share a single space.

"But what that will mean, and the team here knows just how irritatingly excited I am about this, is that an industrial designer will be sitting next to a font designer, who's going to be sitting next to a sound designer, who's next to a motion graphics designer and a haptics expert and somebody who's used to working on three dimensional figures that are animated, next to a user interface expert, with digital model makers and physical real world model makers," Ive said. "I think that hasn't happened before, and I am really terribly excited about what that's going to yield."

It is this confluence of ideas from multiple experts that enables Apple to build complex products like iPhone, products that add new features and capabilities every year.

Critics have panned Apple's new campus as too large, too complex or simply grandiose. Ive disagrees.

"We didn't make Apple Park for other people, and so a lot of the criticisms, I think, are utterly bizarre because it wasn't made for you," he said. "I know how we work and you don't."

Like its consumer products, Apple spent years hammering out the details of Apple Park. It is where Apple employees spend a majority of their life, and as such the campus was designed in gratitude of their service.

"I can't think of another time in the past, or I can't imagine another time in the future, where we get to try and make something that is for us," Ive said. "Not in an indulgent, ghastly selfish way. We made it for us to try and help us do better, to make better products, to be able to easily collaborate with other people.

Finally, on the topic of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, Ive said the tech guru's impact on the industry will continue as long as the company exists. Though Apple is turning out products developed without Jobs' watchful eye, the tenets he infused into the company act as a North Star.

"I cannot image an era where we say, 'Well this is no longer in Steve's influence, his beliefs, his incredible contribution, I think, to culture and to the world via Apple.' I don't think there will be a time when you can say that's no longer the case," Ive said. "If there ever were ever that time, then it's not Apple and we should change the name."

Ive went on to comment on his personal relationship with Jobs. It is well known that the two were close friends as they shared the same sensibilities, often eating together or meeting outside of work.

"I think we had a bizarre way we looked at the world, but it happened to be bizarre and the same. "It's always nice when you feel odd and bizarre, in some ways, to feel odd and bizarre with a friend."
propod

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    Nothing very new in what Jony is saying here. One thing though about Steve Jobs and the fact that the apple culture he nurtured will never disappear...i think that he underestimates the effect of time (let’s project Apple 20 years from now...) and another important fact being that it was a very special group of people (Steve, Jony, forstall,...) that created something special. Obviously Apple will do great things in the future but not with that founding group. And this we cannot change. 
    radarthekat
  • Reply 2 of 14
    Another thing I am noticing lately with Jony is that he spend time to talk about the process of creativity, the process of ideas, the process of architecture and the workplace....he gives me the impression that he sits above Apple and is working on meta topics. Perhaps he is less involved on the day to day work (I don’t have inside knowledge so I don’t know for sure but that’s the impression I get)
  • Reply 3 of 14
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,213moderator
    arie said:
    Nothing very new in what Jony is saying here. One thing though about Steve Jobs and the fact that the apple culture he nurtured will never disappear...i think that he underestimates the effect of time (let’s project Apple 20 years from now...) and another important fact being that it was a very special group of people (Steve, Jony, forstall,...) that created something special. Obviously Apple will do great things in the future but not with that founding group. And this we cannot change. 
    I think that’s very true and is potentially a threat to the culture of innovation at Apple, in some, hopefully distant, future.  But there’s Apple University to inculcate in each new hire the culture Steve and others created and continue to exult.  

    Meanwhile, Apple platforms are beginning to become de facto standards, if not in sheer numbers, as Android could claim, in importance to significant niches, like enterprise.  This draws in both participation of outside agents (the iOS app development community, as an example) and influence of external factors (the general needs of enterprise and the specific needs of medical, education, transportation and other important sectors in which Apple’s platforms will be involved) and this may strengthen Apple’s business prospects but also dilute Apple’s cultural influence, both inside and outside the spaceship.  It’ll be interesting to watch play out over the long term. 
    edited November 2017
  • Reply 4 of 14
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,242member
    I'd love to hear more about his team's workplace dynamic in terms of being aligned around the notion of implicit and pervasive trust. So many companies today, and for many decades prior, still subscribe to an outdated model of implicit distrust that is evidenced by soul crushing practices like annual performance reviews, forced ranking, zero sum game based merit increases, and many other outdated yet HR mandated practices. The workplace dynamic hasn't evolved much from its origins in ancient piecework factories and coal mines where everyone was little more than a fungible chunk of human capital. If Jony really has a single team that has stayed together, learned together, and evolved together in a culture of mutual trust is simply amazing and rivals the best of his design accomplishments.  
    kiltedgreen
  • Reply 5 of 14
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,400member
    Applause 👏🏾 for the writer.  This was a very good summary. 

    The only  change I would make:

    Critics have panned Apple's new campus as too large, too complex or simply grandiose. Ive disagrees. “Well, f**k ‘em”, he said. 


    bestkeptsecretMartin57
  • Reply 6 of 14
    Rayz2016 said:
    Applause ߑﰟᅠfor the writer.  This was a very good summary. 


    I agree. It was a very well written summary.

    I love reading about Ive. The man is probably the greatest industrial designer working in consumer electronics today.

    As a person, he seems contradictory to me. He speaks so softly, looks like he is dextrous enough to thread a needle on a rocky boat but also looks like he could tear my head off with his bare hands!

    edited November 2017 radarthekatriverkojony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,400member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Applause ߑﰟᅠfor the writer.  This was a very good summary. 


    I agree. It was a very well written summary.

    I love reading about Ive. The man is probably the greatest industrial designer working in consumer electronics today.

    As a person, he seems contradictory to me. He speaks so softly, looks like he is dextrous enough to thread a needle on a rocky boat but also looks like he could tear my head off with his bare hands!

    I know what you mean. Every time I see a picture of him I think, “Is he the company’s chief designer or top enforcer?”

    It sounds like he likes to actually build stuff with his hands, which might explain why he’s a big chap. 

    I can imagine him in the back garden (meadow) explaining to his kids why the new tree house is painted white, has no doors or windows, and why there’s no ladder to reach it. 
    adm1Martin57watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    "With his team of about 20 industrial designers, all but two of whom were present at the Hirshhorn"

    Yikes.  All those eggs in one basket.  I hope they didn't all fly on the same plane home.  (I'm serious.)
    jony0cgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 14
    "With his team of about 20 industrial designers, all but two of whom were present at the Hirshhorn"

    Yikes.  All those eggs in one basket.  I hope they didn't all fly on the same plane home.  (I'm serious.)
    Yep. Certain sports teams suddenly being completely wiped out act as a cautionary tale.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    While all that Jony says is true (and is also a marketing message) I believe that the idea that “the magic can be lost without this or that individual” is not recognizing a lot of what happened before in many times in history across cultures and maaany people. We are all replaceable.
    And referring to the idea that “every empire has to end” we should just remember the tears of Scipione giving fire to Carthage. He realized what will happen to Rome.
    As such, I leave the conclusion to the interested reader.
  • Reply 11 of 14
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,624member
    I don't care what this guy has to say anymore. He's responsible for wrecking the GUI design of iOS, and macOS is slowly following. This flat, minimalist, low-contrast, text heavy, buttonless, overreliance on inconsistently executed and completing gestures nonsense all needs to be reeled in. Basic GUI conventions are broken from app to app (go ahead, try to use the Edit mode to delete multiple items at once in a list... does it actually work as in Mail or is it just another way to select and operate on one item at a time as in Reminders and other places??), text selection and editing is screwed up... so much more, all since iOS 7 in 2013. Change for the sake of change, to appease all the "we hate skeumorphism" people and the idiotic complaints of "it looks dated"...
    baconstangcgWerks
  • Reply 12 of 14
    dysamoria said:
    I don't care what this guy has to say anymore. He's responsible for wrecking the GUI design of iOS, and macOS is slowly following. This flat, minimalist, low-contrast, text heavy, buttonless, overreliance on inconsistently executed and completing gestures nonsense all needs to be reeled in. Basic GUI conventions are broken from app to app (go ahead, try to use the Edit mode to delete multiple items at once in a list... does it actually work as in Mail or is it just another way to select and operate on one item at a time as in Reminders and other places??), text selection and editing is screwed up... so much more, all since iOS 7 in 2013. Change for the sake of change, to appease all the "we hate skeumorphism" people and the idiotic complaints of "it looks dated"...

    I want to agree with parts of what you say, but a) I have no reason to lay the blame for GUI changes I don't like at the feet of Ive and b) there is no reason to expect that the options available under "edit" are going to be consistent between applications.  The purpose and functionality of each app should dictate whether bulk delete is the core function of "edit" or something else.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 14
    appexappex Posts: 687member
    Jony, functionality first. Then the rest.
  • Reply 14 of 14
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 950member
    Apple doesn't so much need awesome design right now, as to actually catch up on the 'guts' and QC of what they already have (especially on Mac and software side of things).

    You don't need a crack ID team to put new chips into the 'cheese grater' and/or 'trashcan'... both of which would have made a lot of us Mac folks quite happy. What scares me a bit is that these guys are going to attempt to 'innovate' again instead of just creating something we actually want/need. And, in terms of UI, Apple almost literally wrote the book. Someone there just needs to go back and dust that thing off and start reading once again.
    AI_lias
Sign In or Register to comment.