Apple design wizard Jonathan Ive explains why others get it wrong

jonathan-ive-1Apple Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive — the man behind the iMac, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, iPod, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad (to name just a few) — has given a rare interview to the London Evening Standard. And while Ive doesn’t offer any trade secrets, or reveal what Apple has in its pipeline, the design virtuoso does provide some unique insight into the world’s most profitable electronics company.

“Most of our competitors are interesting [sic] in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals,” says Ive. “A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us — a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better. Committees just don’t work, and it’s not about price, schedule or a bizarre marketing goal to appear different — they are corporate goals with scant regard for people who use the product.”

In other words, if a consumer electronics company wants to achieve Apple-level greatness, it must stop reacting to its competitors by releasing “just another” tablet, or smartphone, or laptop, simply because others are doing the same. Creating a better product is the reason Apple owns the tablets space: Because nobody else has made a better iPad. Sure, there are devices with tighter specs, or more attractive price tags (though even that is up for debate, now). But no other company has released a tablet that gives the majority of users a better experience than the iPad. And doing so is the only way to break Apple’s stranglehold on tablet market — something that’s obviously far easier said than done.

In addition to this daunting insight, Ive also explains why, unlike so many other companies out there, Apple doesn’t use focus groups to fine-tune their products.

“We don’t do focus groups – that is the job of the designer,” says Ive. “It’s unfair to ask people who don’t have a sense of the opportunities of tomorrow from the context of today to design.”

That’s right, he’s talking about you (and us) — people who don’t have a sense of the opportunities of tomorrow. And he’s probably right, at least in general. Apple has made billions by telling people what they want, not asking them what they want, and then trying to give it to them.

The rest of the interview has a few good tidbits, especially if you’re a fan of Apple and Ive. But it’s mostly fluff. Still, it’s refreshing to know that someone at Apple has maintained the signature Steve Jobs bravado.

[Image via Wikipedia]

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