The Independent’s David Phelan notes that Ive recently won the 2018 Professor Hawking Fellowship based on his “remarkable role in championing elegant and innovative design.” This of course is the latest in a long list of accolades he has garnered over his career at Apple.
Even with all the praise Ive receives, Phelan says that during the interview he felt “a humility that puts him as part of a team at Apple.”
The first question asked about how Ive views his responsibilities when it comes to updating a “well-loved and commercially successful product.”
“I think your responsibility actually goes further back than that,” he says. “It starts with the determination not to fall into the trap of just making things different. Because when a product has been highly regarded there is often a desire from people to see it redesigned. I think one of the most important things is that you change something not to make it different but to make it better.
Ive continued by saying that when making improvements to a product, you don’t have to make people “fall in love with it again.”
If you are making changes that are in the service of making something better, then you don’t need to convince people to fall in love with it again. Our sense of habit and familiarity with something is so developed, there is always that initial reaction that is more of a comment on something being different rather than necessarily better or worse. In my experience, if we try very hard to make material improvements, people quickly recognise those and make the sort of connection they had before with the product.
Another interesting question was about how Ive thinks about making magical elements and the history of iPad being described as magical with its introduction in 2010.
Oh dear, I loathe the thought of being predictable, but it’s a combination. Some of these capabilities and features are enabled by extraordinary technology that takes so many years to develop, so those are decisions that we’ve made often many years in advance. Face ID, for instance, is such a remarkably complex and sophisticated set of technologies, it’s not just one that was developed to a singular goal.
He said that the defining factor for a magical product is that it’s hard to pin down what exactly about it is so magical.
I think what puts a product in the place where it’s described as magical is often about those attributes which are less easy to describe. You can’t quite put your finger on what it is.
Related to the new iPad Pro, he says a new magical and subtle feature is that Apple has removed the idea of a primary orientation.
So, in the new iPad Pro, one of the things we’ve been wanting to get to for a long time is a sense that the product is not oriented in a primary and then, therefore, in a secondary way.
What I think marks the new iPad Pro as particularly special is it doesn’t have an orientation. It has speakers all the way around the perimeter. By getting rid of the Home Button and developing Face ID, the tablet is able to work in all of these different orientations.
Ive also says that the new display with curved corners to match the enclosure offers the idea that it’s a “single, clear product” and differentiates itself from the competition.
If you look at the iPad Pro, though, you can see how the radius, the curve in the corner of the display, is concentric with and sympathetic to the actual enclosure. You feel it’s authentic, and you have the sense that it’s not an assembly of a whole bag of different components: it’s a single, clear product.
This extends to the design of the new Apple Pencil.
I think the way it just snaps onto the side, well, that’s a nice example of a sort of that magical feeling. It’s unexpected, we don’t quite understand how it’s working and even more incomprehensible is the fact that it’s also charging. You can see how that’s aligned with this idea that you can just pick the product up and use it without thought.
When looking at the bigger picture, Ive says he looks at his job as a designer as very forward thinking, and rarely reactionary.
When you’re talking about the future, and as a designer that’s where my head is, then it’s extremely rare that I feel that I’m working in response to an articulated problem.
I could count the occasions that I’ve done that in the last 25 years on the fingers of one hand. It’s extremely rare that what we do is a response to somebody articulating a problem. By definition, you didn’t know it was a problem until you were aware of a better way of doing it. The tremendous challenge here is that when you have been solving a problem a certain way for a long time, so many things convince you that, of course, that’s the best way of doing it, not least habit.
The interview also touches on Apple’s success in using 100% recycled aluminum in some of its new products like the Retina MacBook Air.
We have stayed focused on aluminium because it’s such an amazing material, and a team-wide effort has figured out a way to develop a material so that we can use 100 per cent recycled aluminium. We all think this is as big as the reaction at the keynote suggested. I was surprised by the reaction, but very happily so.
The full interview is a great read, check it out here.