From his interview:
However, he remains in awe of the process. “If you step back and you think about it in a very objective way, it is a remarkable thing that as we sit here right now, there’s not an idea. It just does not exist.
“And you can have this barely formed thought and then suddenly something does actually exist. Then that thought that is so tentative and so fragile normally becomes a tentative discussion and you’re trying to bring body to the thought with words. Generally what happens is that’s a conversation between a couple of people and is exclusive.
“And then you start to draw to try to describe and develop this fragile idea. Then a remarkable thing happens at the time you make the first object, the time that you actually give form and dimension to the idea. In the whole process, that’s the one point where the transition is the most dramatic and suddenly you can involve multiple people. It brings focus and it can galvanise a group of people, which is enormously powerful.”
“Sometimes we’re very close to a problem and we’re investing incredible resources and time trying to resolve the smallest detail that is way beyond any sense of functional imperative… and we do it because we think it’s right.
“It’s the ‘finishing the back of the drawer’ – you can argue that people will never see it and it’s very hard to, in any rational sense, describe why it’s important but it just seems important. It’s a way that you demonstrate that you care for the people that you are making these products for. I think we see ourselves as having a civic responsibility to do that. It’s important. It’s right. It’s very hard to explain why.”
There is within Apple a strong belief in people focusing on their area of expertise, says Ive, but when a product is being developed the process can be quite fluid. He says: “As we’re sitting together to develop a product you would struggle to identify who the electrical engineer was, who’s the mechanical engineer, who’s the industrial designer.”
Teamwork is an important part of the process. “One of the things that is particularly precious about working at Apple is that many of us on the design team have worked together for 15-plus years and there’s a wonderful thing about learning as a group. A fundamental part of that is making mistakes together. There’s no learning without trying lots of ideas and failing lots of times.”
The last year has been one of significant change for Apple. A new chief executive, Tim Cook, took over just months before the death of Steve Jobs, the former chief executive and co-founder of the company. The absence of Jobs has led some analysts to predict an inevitable decline for the company.
As you would expect, Ive disagrees: “We’re developing products in exactly the same way that we were two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. It’s not that there are a few of us working in the same way: there is a large group of us working in the same way.”
That team is the reason that Ive believes Apple will continue to succeed. “We have become rather addicted to learning as a group of people and trying to solve very difficult problems as a team. And we get enormous satisfaction from doing that. Particularly when you’re sat on a plane and it appears that the majority of people are using something that you’ve collectively agonised over. It’s a wonderful reward.”