Jonathan Ive at the Design Museum, London


Sir Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple Inc. and arguably the most influential industrial designer around today appears in conversation with Design Museum Director, Deyan Sudjic, in an evening devoted to the future of design. A really great evening, as I have grown to expect at the Design Museum!
I want to share some of his quotes…

About user experience
Why is it when we have a bad experience with a product, we assume it is us (the user), but a bad experience with food, we blame the food?!
About value
What we make testifies who we are. People can sense care and can sense carelessness. This relates to respect for each other and carelessness is personally offensive.
About design
Make each product the best it can be. Focus on form and materials.
What we don’t include is as important as what we do include.
 About ideas and creativity
The best ideas start as conversations.
A small change at the beginning of the design process defines an entirely different product at the end.
At the start of the process the idea is just a thought- very fragile and exclusive. When the first physical manifestation is created everything changes. It is no longer exclusive, now it involves a lot of people.
To do something innovative means that you reject reason.
About motivation at Apple
There is a clear goal and it isn’t to make money. The goal is to desperately try to make the best products we can. We are not naive – if you trust it, people like it, they buy it and we make money. This is a consequence.
About education
It is sad that so many designers don’t know how to make. CAD software can make a bad design look palatable! It is sad that four years can be spent on a 3D design course without making anything! People who are great at designing and making have a great advantage.
About failing
Shouldn’t be afraid to fail- if we are not failing we are not pushing.
80% in the studio is not going to work.
If something is not good enough, stop doing it.
About design theft
Eight years of work can be copied in six months. It wasn’t inevitable that it was going to work.  A stolen design is stolen time.
Is it flattering?… No
Creating new and different designs
We wont be different for different’s sake. Different is easy… make it pink and fluffy!! Better is harder. Making something different often has a marketing and corporate agenda.
When big things change (like displays go away or voice control takes over) make it different.
About challenges in software design
Design is design. The media is different and there is a lot to learn but the design principles are always relevant.
About future products at Apple
He can’t talk about that…

If there are three things that a designer should take away it is this…
  1. Learn how to care
  2. Learn how to focus
  3. Be prepared to screw up and throw things away


For me personally, I need to figure out how to fail more and earlier in a corporate environment. The focus in the corporate world is on delivery and success and limiting risk. Failing in any way in the corporate world is not generally welcomed.

Jonathan talks about failing 80% of the time and embracing this so that the 20% success really is success. Fail early to de-risk early on and care for the 20% to create a wonderful product.

A small change at the beginning of the design process defines an entirely different product at the end.


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4 Responses

  1. not80percentfail says:

    If i’m reading his quote correctly, Jony is not saying to fail 80% of the time. He means 80% effort in studio is not enough. that extra 20% could mean failing to deliver what’s expected in the search for a good design. Which lead’s to his rejection of mediocre design, i.e. <80% designs.

    • Joseph Shaffery says:

      About the 80% failure- Jony talked about idea generation. A load of ideas are initially generated. As time goes on, some of these ideas are rejected and others refined. Some ideas are ahead of their time and cannot progress any further. Out of all the ideas only 20% of them get all the way through to a final product. In oder to create a wonderful product, many ideas are cut down to create a winner.

  2. Lou says:

    To do something innovative means that you reject reason.

    This is my take away joe 🙂 thanks for sharing. You’re blog is really thought provoking.

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