Earlier this week, we reported on some details and photos of the one-off Leica camera designed by Apple’s Jony Ive and Marc Newson for the Product(RED) campaign. Leica originally shared some interesting tidbits about the functionality and development process of the camera, but now, Vanity Fair has published an extensive interview with Ive and Newson about the process. The report provides an interesting look into Apple PR’s process of organizing interviews of its executives:
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We were meeting in the Royal Suite partly because Ive was staying in a more conventional room down the hall, but just as much, I suspect, because that is how Apple does things: elaborately and curiously. Ive rarely appears in public or gives interviews—even in Apple’s famous product launches, he usually shows up on a video—and his company design studio in Cupertino is harder to get into than the Pentagon. We’ve had conversations about his work over the last several years that have never led to a full-fledged interview because Apple’s P.R. executives have never given him the O.K. to speak to me on the record, or to let me into the studio. With the (Red) auction approaching, however, Apple softened its hard-line stance, at least somewhat. Our first meeting to talk about the (Red) project had been set for the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, where Newson had gone for several days’ work with Ive. But three hours before the meeting was scheduled to start, I received a text message telling me to go instead to San Francisco, some 50 miles to the north, and wait for further instructions in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. After a 45-minute wait, one of Apple’s press-relations people appeared and escorted me to another treaty-signing-worthy suite, this one on the 38th floor.
The interview also provides some public knowledge into the background and careers of both Ive and Newson. Additionally, the pair shared insights into their design philosophies.:
“The most important thing is that you actually care, that you do something to the very best of your ability,” Ive told me. “We can’t explain it in a fiscal sense, but the care that goes into the iPhone is equivalent to what goes into watches and other things that are significantly more expensive. I love the idea that the phone will be so broadly accessible.” What excites Ive most about the iPhone, in other words, isn’t just its elegance as an object; it’s the fact that he and Jobs managed to manufacture an object designed to his demanding specifications that could still be affordable by the mass market.
Perhaps most interestingly for those curious about Ive’s design process, the interview shares some intricate details:
“I found it a very odd and unusual thing to put this amount of love and energy into one thing, where you are only going to make one,” Ive said. “But isn’t it beautiful?” The camera’s dollar worth is hard to estimate, since it is an art piece as much as a functioning object, but the value of the time Ive, Newson, and Leica’s own engineers put into it probably totals well into six figures, and possibly seven. The process of designing and making the camera took more than nine months, and involved 947 different prototype parts and 561 different models before the design was completed. According to Apple, 55 engineers assisted at some part in the process, spending a collective total of 2,149 hours on the project. Final assembly of the actual camera took one engineer 50 hours, the equivalent of more than six workdays, all of which makes Ive’s comment to me that he thought the Leica might bring $6 million seem not so far-fetched.
For more insight, the full interview from the November issue of Vanity Fair is definitely worth a read.