The 10 design commandments of Apple's Jony Ive

Here are 10 design ideas that make Ive -- and Apple -- tick.

jony ive


Apple designer Sir Jony Ive has built a world-class reputation by consistently applying the same principles across his career. Here are 10 of the ideas that make Ive -- and Apple -- tick.

early work

Design takes depth

Ive believes design takes depth, focus and caring. It's important to truly understand both the products you're trying to create, and materials you're using.

"If you are truly innovating, you don't have a prototype you can refer to." Wired

"So many students ask me about design movements and technology - but those things change." Success as a designer is about "focus and caring… I understand that if you are prepared to keep going, if you really, really care, I think that's fundamental." Macworld UK

“We have people graduating from college who don’t know how to make something themselves. It’s only then that you understand the characteristics of a material and how you honor that in the shaping. Until you’ve actually pushed metal around and done it yourself, you don’t understand." Vanity Fair

dieter rams

Design care expression

The customer comes first, and Ive attempts to articulate that within his products -- he puts the care and attention in to make them as good as he can, because he cares.

"Manufactured objects testify to who made them. They describe values." Video

"It's sad and frustrating that we are surrounded by products that seem to testify to a complete lack of care." The Telegraph

"I think we are surrounded by hundreds and thousands of products that show companies don’t care enough about what they design for consumers." He told the BBC in an interview.

Througout all of his work, Ive has admitted to his liking for famed Braun designer, Dieter Rams -- who designed the product illustrated above.

ive at moma

Inspiration, not imitation

Ive has several designs on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art and a string of design awards to his name. While he concedes to finding inspiration in the work of other designers, he doesn't think imitation is flattery. In Ive's world, you find your own light.

"I don’t see it as flattery. When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t know it’s gonna work, you spend 7 or 8 years working on something, and then it’s copied. I think it is really straightforward. It is theft and it is lazy. I don’t think it is OK at all." Vanity Fair Summit

ive imac

Good design is revolutionary

Ive believes putting the user at the heart of the product experience is a liberating act -- it's an approach that inherently opposes the cynical lack of regard shown by products that aren't made for users.

"People are frustrated with their manufactured environment. We tend to assume the problem is with us, and not with the products we're trying to use. In other words, when our tools are broken, we feel broken. And when somebody fixes one, we feel a tiny bit more whole." Time

ive in workshop

Complex simplicity

Simplicity is an Ive maxim, but his kind of simplicity has depth. Not only is it about ease of use, it's about form, function, efficiency. The ambition? To design complex products that feel like they've always worked this way.

"There is beauty when something works and it works intuitively." BBC.

 "We don't do focus groups. They just ensure that you don't offend anyone, and produce bland inoffensive products." Macworld UK

"I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity; in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It's about bringing order to complexity," Apple press release

"There's an applied style of being minimal and simple, and then there's real simplicity. This looks simple, because it really is." Wired

iphone 2007

Focus till it hurts

Focus is another Ive maxim. He says he learned a lot about this from Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, and it demands he as a designer and Apple as a company put all their attention into what they do.

"The thing with focus is that it’s not this thing you aspire to, like: 'Oh, on Monday I’m going to be focused. It’s every single minute.'" Vanity Fair

"Simplicity speaks of the care of how our products are developed ... it's not obvious how hard it was. It's not the design team, or the mechanical team, it's the company, and it's because the company does care." Macworld UK

"So much of what we try to do is get to a point where the solution seems inevitable: you know, you think 'of course it's that way, why would it be any other way?' It looks so obvious, but that sense of inevitability in the solution is really hard to achieve." IconEye


The pain of "no"

Sometimes Apple and Ive have to let ideas go in order to focus better on other ideas.

"What focus means is saying no to something that with every bone in your body [you] think is a phenomenal idea, and you wake up thinking about it, but you end up saying no to it because you're focusing on something else." BI

Both Ive and Jobs often said they were equally as proud of the solutions they didn't introduce as those they did -- of course, we don't know a great deal about the things that never made the cut....

ive and newsom use

Sweat the detail

Ive doesn't just sit at the drawing board and sketch away for new product designs. He invests time in understanding what the design should be, and then makes huge investment in details customers may never even see -- that's that "care" thing again.

"I want to know what things are for, how they work, what they can or should be made of, before I even begin to think what they look like." Macworld UK

"We worked really, really hard to develop a mechanism that basically spring-loads the clutch so that at a point when you are opening it you counter-balance the display. And it's one of the points we spent so much time working out, so that the product was so much nicer than anything else." Macworld UK

ive abc iwatch

Design for life

Care. Commitment. Putting users first. The ultimate goal is to create solutions that people enjoy using -- achieving this is the goal of Ive's design philosophy.

"Consumers ... are incredibly discerning, they sense where there has been great care in the design, and when there is cynicism and greed. We've found that really encouraging." Evening Standard


It's not just about the money

Jony Ive is a designer's designer. His (and Apple's) success is based on creating great products first, and the money follows. Good user experiences empower powerful brands.

"We don't take so long and make the way we make for fiscal reasons." Computerworld

"We make money to make nice things." Ive at Design Museum

I hope you enjoyed this short collection, please share your own insights in comments.

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