Apple SVP Industrial Design Jony Ive talks Apple design and competition

In a rare Q&A with the Evening Standard‘s Mark Prigg from the firm’s headquarters, Apple’s design guru talks about Apple’s design process and of course the competition.

When asked what made design different at Apple, Ive responded:

A: We struggle with the right words to describe the design process at Apple, but it is very much about designing and prototyping and making. When you separate those, I think the final result suffers. If something is going to be better, it is new, and if it’s new you are confronting problems and challenges you don’t have references for. To solve and address those requires a remarkable focus. There’s a sense of being inquisitive and optimistic, and you don’t see those in combination very often.

On the genesis of new products:

A: What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea. Where you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you make a 3D model, however crude, you bring form to a nebulous idea and everything changes — the entire process shifts. It galvanises and brings focus from a broad group of people. It’s a remarkable process.

Apple’s goal when building a new product:

A: Our goals are very simple — to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.

Why is the competition seemingly unable to keep pace with Apple?:

A:Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals. 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.

One particularly interesting comment regarded the praise Ive has for Apple’s iOS iPhoto team (which I do not believe Ive is involved with). He gushed, “The iPhoto app we created for the new iPad completely consumes you and you forget you are using an iPad.”

The entire interview is a great read.

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Adam Lashinsky’s look ‘Inside Apple’ profiles iOS head Scott Forstall as Apple’s ‘CEO-in-waiting’

Fortune Senior Editor-at-large Adam Lashinsky’s upcoming book about Apple’s inner workings titled Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works” is bound to become controversial. Unlike Steve Jobs’ authorized biographer Walter Isaacson, Lashinsky did not have direct access to Apple’s leadership team, employees nor did he have Jobs’ cooperation. Nevertheless, the author has deep connections so his book draws from this expertise, focusing on Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs, current CEO Tim Cook, design chief Jonathan Ive and head of iOS software Scott Forstall (pictured on the right). The young executive (43) has managed to accumulate power, and he now wields tremendous influence at Apple due to his iOS division contributing to as much as 70 percent of Apple’s total revenues. As such, Forstall is seen as Apple’s next CEO once Tim Cook steps down, which probably will not happen until 2021 if he is to vest his 1 million stock shares awarded last August. Here is how one source described Forstall in Lashinsky’s upcoming book, according to Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

He’s a sharp, down-to-earth, and talented engineer, and a more-than-decent presenter. He’s the total package.

Lashinsky conceded and explained:

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Sir Jonathan: Apple’s design mastermind Jonathan Ive awarded knighthood in the United Kingdom

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design Jonathan Ive can add a new title to his resume: Sir Jonathan Ive. According to BBC, Ive was granted knighthood in the United Kingdom in the New Year Honours List. The report said that Ive’s official title is a Knight Commander of the British Empire. Ive, who was born and raised in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States to pursue design work, said that the honor is “absolutely thrilling.”

Ive credits his home country for some of his incredible design work: “I am keenly aware that I benefit from a wonderful tradition in the U.K. of designing and making.” While Ive has had an extremely successful career in Cupertino, California as Apple’s design chief, recent rumors said the designer of the iPod, iMac, iPhone, and most recently the iPad, was considering a move back to the United Kingdom. Soon after those rumors, a reliable report claimed Ive would not be leaving…

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Unibody on Ultrabook: Metal on the outside, plastic on the inside


A precision aluminum unibody enclosure gives Mac notebooks structural integrity, providing all of the mounting features in a single part.

Makers of Ultrabooks, ultra-thin notebooks that conform to Intel’s recommended specs, are facing difficulties replicating Apple’s unibody process, citing limited capacity and price restrictions on the unibody process. They’ve come to realize that unibody construction requires expensive CNC equipment to machine a sturdy notebook case from a single block of aluminum, including internal parts and mounting features. Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn and supplier Catcher Technology own thousands of CNC machines and you can imagine where their priorities lie.

According to DigiTimes, the makers of would-be MacBook Air killers are turning to the cheaper high-density fiberglass chassis for the low-end, said to cost up to $30. For the high-end, Apple’s rivals are combining the exterior aluminum enclosure with plastic parts inside. Such a semi-unibody case is said to cost between $40 and $80:

The new aluminum chassis with plastic internal parts design will allow Ultrabooks to feature a metal appearance, but all the internal parts will be made from plastic stuck to metal parts using glue. Read more

See if you can guess (by smile) which of these Apple Execs just got a $60 million bonus

A few Apple execs have been departing over the past few weeks which might lead some to believe that Apple could have a talent retention problem in the wake of the recent leadership transition.

Perhaps hoping to put that kind of talk to rest, Apple just dropped fat bonus stock on their heavy hitters according to SEC filings.  With Apple’s stock riding at 400-ish per share, the below bonus shares are certainly a great incentive to stay – worth $60 million/each at today’s value.

Bruce Sewell – 150,000 shares, 50 percent vest on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Jeffrey Williams — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Philip Schiller — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Peter Oppenheimer –150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Robert Mansfield — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Scott Forstall — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Eddy Cue — 100,000 shares, 25 percent vest September 21, 2014, 100 percent September 21, 2016.

Strangely, there is no mention of Jonathan Ive who could be considered “on a different level” since Steve Jobs made him untouchable (though there have been rumors that he may want to retire).  Perhaps that’s why he’s the only guy without a big fat smile, above. (Ha, actually Apple isn’t required to file bonus paperwork with the SEC for Ive -

…Jonathan Ive, the company’s senior vice president for industrial design, whose position at the company does not trigger S.E.C. rules requiring public disclosure of stock awards.

- Because his role isn’t important to Apple’s well being?!)

CEO Tim Cook already has a huge bonus package (1 million shares) if he sticks around to 2021. Read more

Samsung requests depositions from Jony Ive and other key Apple inventors

Raising the stakes in the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung over copycat accusations involving mobile devices, Samsung is upping the ante by asking to depose Apple’s iPhone designers, including Apple’s leading industrial design guru Jonathan Ive.

According to Josh Rosenthall of Edible Apple, depositions of Apple’s iPhone inventors Jonathan Ive, Douglas Satzger, Shin Nishibori and Christopher Stringer “will be taking place relatively soon” and ahead of the expedited trial between Apple and Samsung in the United States, scheduled for July 30, 2012.

According to Samsung’s motion, none of the aforementioned designers will be able to sit for deposition for various reasons. In the case of Jony Ive, the motion mentions “personal reasons”. Ive is especially important in this case. Jobs’s spiritual partner, it is said that no one could tell Ive what to do, at least until Jobs resigned. According to Jobs’s authorized biographer Walter Isaacson:

He called Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, his “spiritual partner” at Apple. He told Isaacson that Ive had “more operation power” at Apple than anyone besides Jobs himself — that there’s no one at the company who can tell Ive what to do. That, says Jobs, is “the way I set it up.”

As such, Ive is the holder of Apple’s many secrets and inner workings, something Samsung is legitimately hoping to exploit ahead of the trial. And while Apple’s design guru really needs no introduction, here’s a brief overview of the others.

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Isaacson interviewed Jony Ive in his bunker, here’s what came out with him

The world’s most famous industrial design lab is found at the ground floor of Apple’s corporate campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California. It’s arguably one of the most closely guarded offices on the planet. Even Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson was asked to interview Apple’s leading designer elsewhere most of the time. But one day in 2010, Jonathan Ive took the writer for a tour inside his design bunker. It holds “the future for the next three years”, the Briton told Isaacson. According to the just-released biography, the facility is as cutting-edge as cutting-edge gets.

Nobody gets past the guards without special access cards. The office has heavy locks and tinted windows. It features metallic gray decor and has powerful boom boxes that pump out techno and jazz music for a bunch of designers developing future design ideas. Expensive prototyping equipment can be seen inside and various machines to apply paint and make countless foam models of future products are everywhere.

Jobs would often visit Ive’s design lab to actively participate in the design process and his artistic sensibilities were crucial for Apple’s design prowess, Ive said:

In so many other companies, ideas and great design get lost in the process. The ideas that come from me and my team would have been completely irrelevant, nowhere, if Steve hadn’t been here to push us, work with us, and drive us through all the resistance to turn our ideas into products.

Apple’s design guru also tells how they often obsessed over the packaging for Apple products:

Steve and I spend a lot of time on the packaging. I love the process of unpacking something. You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special. Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.

But it wasn’t all peachy. The designer would at times get upset with his late boss for “taking too much credit”, which didn’t sit well with Ive’s introvert personality and especially his careful consideration to always put his team’s efforts first and foremost:

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Apple executives knew Jobs’ condition at iPhone 4S Launch

According to Palo Alto police department spokeswoman Sandra Brown (via Bloomberg), Apple executives may have known Steve Jobs’ condition at the time of the iPhone 4S launch event. Apple informed police that Steve Jobs passing was close, days before Apple’s official statement confirming he had passed.

As a result of the meeting, police apparently put plans in place for officers to patrol Jobs’ home after the news of his passing had broke. Of course this was to keep crowds under control when Jobs’ supporters inevitably visited his home following the news. From the report:

The Apple representatives told the police department there was “a possibility that it could happen this week,” Brown said in a phone interview. “It’s common sense for us to work together. If you think about who he was and his contribution to the world, people might come out in masses.”

Apple was apparently supposed to inform police of his death before issuing a public statement, but according to Brown, police found out through Apple’s press release on October 5th.

According to the WSJ, Jobs’ funeral is today.

Many have speculated that the empty chair marked “Reserved” next to Apple execs at the recent iPhone 4S unveiling may have been a silent tribute to Jobs. Long time Jobs confidant Jony Ive (they were so close many called the two ‘Jive’) was notably absent from the event.

Cook, Cue, Schiller and Forstall, though subdued, were nevertheless somehow able to put on a great show in the face of knowing their mentor and boss for over a decade was in bad condition.