The issue of focus: A rare glimpse into Jony Ive’s approach to design

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an article about Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. The major point of the article is to focus on how Cook has successfully handled the transition away from Steve Jobs, as evidenced in the recent Worldwide Developer’s Conference.

Almost as a postscript to that profile on Cook, the NYT also published excerpts from an interview with Apple’s chief designer, Jony Ive. In my humble opinion, Ive is easily the greatest living industrial designer. This rare glimpse into his world and process is worth a read:

One of the values of things I learned absolutely directly from Steve was the whole issue of focus. What are we focusing on: focus on product. I wish I could do a better job in communicating this truth here, which is when you really are focused on the product, that’s not a platitude. When that truly is your reason for coming into the studio, is just to try to make the very best product you can, when that is exclusive of everything else, it’s remarkable how insignificant or unimportant a lot of other stuff becomes. Titles or organizational structures, that’s not the lens through which we see our peers…
My focus is incredibly narrow. I can’t talk with any authority other than design and development of product. When I look back over the last 20 years, you have this sense that, you’re working on something that’s incredibly hard, when you’re working on it, you don’t know whether it’s going to work out or not.

The benefit of hindsight is we only really talk about those things that did work out. You have this sense that you’re working on something incredibly hard. When working on projects, you have this determination. You just keep going. If doing anything new, you’re very used to having insurmountable obstacles. At some point you have to make a call — at some point you have to say, “We’ve stretched this and we’ve come up against laws of physics, which we cannot change.”

Source: NYTimes


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