Apple's Jonathan Ive on … 18.11.14

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In the final talk in the Design Museum and Icon's DM25 series, Apple's head of design discussed design education, carelessness and the Apple Watch

... discovering Macs

"Through the object I was sitting in front of, I had a clear sense of the people that made it. I had a sense of their values, their preoccupations, the things they cared about, the reasons they made it. This made me want to research and find out about this somewhat anarchic contrarian group that had got together in California."

... values

"One thing that struck me when I was consulting was that I was working very, very hard, but I didn't actually like the clients at all – not because they were awkward to work with, but because their values stank. I somehow felt I was aligning with them and that I was abdicating a responsibility."

... struggling with technology

"When we're working with technology and we struggle, for some reason we assume the problem is us. If we're eating something and the food tastes horrible we think the food is disgusting."

... progress

"There is a natural part of our condition that, when you see potent, phenomenal technology you typically want to make it smaller, cheaper and better. That's exactly what happened in the multi-century transition from a clock tower to a watch on your wrist. What we're doing with the Apple Watch has a robust historical precedent."

... money

"Our goal at Apple is not to make money – it's harder for good design to come out of an organisation that has that as a driving force. Our goal is to try to make the best products we can and we trust that if we are successful in doing so, people will like them and buy them. There are many decisions we make that might not appear to make fiscal sense, which is why this motivation is so important."

... carelessness

"I believe that people can sense care, in the same way they can sense carelessness. It's offensive if you expect me to buy something in which I can sense carelessness, because it shows a disregard for your fellow human. I don't know anything good that's come from carelessness. So much of what we're surrounded by is a product of carelessness, but the good thing about that is that, if you do care, it's conspicuous."

... design education

"One thing I find sad is that there are so many designers we interview who don't know how to make stuff, because workshops in design schools are expensive and computer rendering can make a dreadful design look palatable. It's tragic that you can spend four years studying the design of three-dimensional objects and not make one."

... stealing

"As a designer, 80% of what you do isn't going to work. This is why we may seem a little testy when we feel things we've been working on for eight years have been copied. It's not copying – it's theft. They stole our time – time we could have spent with our families. Someone asked me, 'do you think when someone copies what you do, it's flattery'. No."

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Ive (right) with Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic

... being different

"We won't do something different for difference's sake. This is where designers can cave into the marketing, corporate agenda of, 'it looks like the last one, can't we make it look different?' Well, no, there's no reason too. I think it's wrong to make things different just for the sake of being different."

... motivation

"When we made the first iPhone, we already hated our phones a lot. That's a good motivation: to really believe you could make a better product. One of the things that drives you is being frustrated and angry about how little care is exhibited in our manufactured environment. [Another] part of it is wanting to have nice things that are well conceived, well made and work."

... the wrist watch

"The wrist is an amazing place to put technology that you're only going to use in a certain way. You're obviously not going to write a dissertation on it, but you might look at it to see who just texted you or if you're walking and don't want to get your phone out, to see [whether you need to go] left or right. A watch is good for these tasks that are inexpensive in terms of your commitment to them."

... style and functionality

"What drove the design of the wrist watch wasn't fashion, but utilitarianism and pragmatism. An aviator commissioned Cartier to design it because he didn't want to take his hand off the joystick when flying. But when something is worn, issues of fashion, style and personal preference come into it. I think one of the biggest challenges we found with the Apple Watch was that we wouldn't want to all be sitting here wearing the same thing, which is why we designed a flexible system rather than a singular product."

... materials

"One of the things that drives me potty is this idea that you can have a random shape and then think, "let's make that in wood and this bit in plastic". Sometimes you see car interior sketches where there are forms and arbitrary lists of wood, and you think, 'that wood's not that shape'. Of course, we can make anything any shape, but that's just being bloody-minded."

... making

"You can't make decisions by reading about [materials] – you gain that experience from making. Mark Newson, for example, is a genius from a design point of view, but he's a great maker and he wouldn't be a good designer if he wasn't."

... form

"Hopefully the final product [we make] seems inevitable and calm and there's no sane alternative. When we've done it right, there's a wonderful connection between the idea, the form and how you've transformed the material for the final shape."

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Ive's talk was the last in the Design Museum's DM25 series, in association with Icon

... the creative process

"I haven't lost that wonder about the creative process. I still think it's extraordinary – an idea coming from nothing. Creating something new does require that you reject reason, and the problem is that when you do that, it can make you look a bit odd. "

... ideas

"One of the things I learned over the years is that the small decisions you make at the earlier stages of a project can lead to an entirely different product at the end."

... prototyping

"One of the things I love is that, when you make the first physical manifestation of what the idea is, everything changes. It's the most profound shift in the entire process, because it's not exclusive anymore and it's not open to interpretation. It's there and it includes people. I think it's also one of the most difficult parts – giving an idea a body."

... reduction

"To move things forward, you have to take things [like a floppy drive] out. Often what we say no to and we don't include is as important as the things we do [include]."

... the iPhone

"With the iPhone, there were so many times it really didn't look like it was going to work and we nearly stopped. We spent so long on designing the inside of the iphone and 99% of people will never see it. But we thought that was the right thing to do."

... bad design

"We're prepared to screw up the work we do and throw it away even if we don't know what we're going to do instead. If it's not very good, we should stop doing it even if we've spent an awful lot of money developing it."

Read interviews with and watch videos of the other DM25 speakers

Interview: Patricia Urquiola – "When you do a book, it’s like closing something. Or opening up a new chapter"

Interview: Alberto Alessi – "The future is unpredictable"

Interview: Morag Myerscough – "You have to be careful with the word playful though, as people think it means childish or for children"

Video: Paul Smith on the SK5 PhonosuperPaul Smith on the SK5 Phonosuper

Video: Sean Perkins on the Saarinen Tulip Chair

Video: Javier Mariscal on the Vespa




quotes story

Someone asked me, 'do you think when someone copies what you do, it's flattery'. No.

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