What’s next for design was asked from Jonathan Ive, the famous Apple Senior Vice President of Design; probably the most influential designer of the world at the moment. The interview was part of London Design Museum’s 25 year anniversary celebrations.
What was immediately nice listening to Ive is the fact that he is not a big ego personality, instead he came across as a very thoughtful person.
The interview started by looking into both past and future of design. One thing he pointed out that in the past, when something wasn’t working, you thought it was your fault. Now users immediately assume that the problem is in the product.
From Ive’s words about the newest Apple product the watch, we can try to make some assumptions on more general level where the future will be for tech products. It seems unavoidable that it will be in some form of wearables. They are automatically more personal, closer to user. Ive was talking about the ritual of timekeeping. It is a quick, on-and-off thing. That is a key element in user behaviour. The direction for design is smaller, better, reliable and multisensory transition.
Next Ive was talking about the creative process in general. He mentioned often the value of making, not relying only on digital renderings in the design process. A good example he mentioned is Marc Newson. “He could not to be a good designer, if he wasn’t a good maker”.
Ive described how in the end of the creative process the final product must be “inevitable” in the way it starts from the idea and is materialised in a final shape. He said he hasn’t lost the wonder of the creative process – how it becomes from nothing. According to Ive the best ideas start as conversations. He pointed out how important listening is especially in the beginning of the process; how small changes in the beginning can have a big impact, even create a different product.
At the start the ideas are exclusive and fragile. The most difficult part is the first physical manifestation of the idea. It is not exclusive anymore. It is very hard giving idea a body.
When asked about what is good design and motivation behind it, Ive firmly said it is not money, instead it is always to make the best product possible. Sometimes the costs can’t be justified. What seemed to be his most important message from this talk, was the care when designing and making the products.
“People can sense the care in the same way people can sense carelessness.”
Ive talked about the responsibility in designing products that are intimate and used so many hours a day.
What concerns Ive now is that designers no longer know how to make stuff. He talked about the importance of making important, powerful objects, that connect people. In his mind technology and art are merging in Apple products.
When talking about failure, he said 80% of the work at Apple won’t work in the end. So when something is copied it is not flattery. It takes enormous time to develop the products. He told that many times the phone looked like it is not going to work. He described innovation being unreasonable; rejecting reason. A good motivation to design the phone was the fact that everyone in the team really hated their phones.
Another area Ive talked a lot about is the importance of manufacturing. There is a lot of manufacturing made with a little care. He described how they have spent time to design better machines e.g. for cutting and how important it can be in the end. According to Ive nobody ever left the Apple design team. At the moment they have 17-18 designers, and he doesn’t want to grow the team.
Another important lesson to be learned from Ive is to stop doing something when it is not good enough regardless how much money has been invested into it. After finishing a failed project and starting a new one something really great can come out of it. So in the end it is all a learning process, and the time has not been wasted on it.
To conclude, the message from Ive was that designing great products is very hard work with no short cuts. Designers should care and take responsibility designing products for people. There is seriousness and commitment in the process that it’s about serving people’s needs first, not making money. Innovation can’t be based only on logic and reasoning. Design is a journey and a learning process.
Finally, at schools kids should be able to make stuff, that they can take home.