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Jonathan Ive talks about the Apple Watch, creativity and feeling plagiarized at the Design Museum in London

Jony Ive , Apple’s executive vice president of design, dropped by the London Design Museum last night to discuss on the banks of the Thames such topics as his motivations, the origin of ideas, plagiarism and, of course, design . The iPhone and the recently revealed Apple Watch also came up in the conversation, and in particular, Ive highlighted the degree of personalisation of the apple clock as one of the biggest challenges she has faced in its development.

For those who speak English and do not want to miss a detail of what was discussed, you will find a complete transcript of the talk on the website, but for the rest, here you have summarized some of the most interesting points:

  • Ive’s team consists of only 18 people. “I like working in a small team. In our design group we are only 18 people. No one has ever left it.” This is one of the reasons why her team doesn’t go out and redesign every product every year like other companies.
  • “We’re not going to do something different just because it’s different. Doing something different is easy… that’s pink and fluffy. The hard part is making it better. Doing something different often comes up when designers give in to marketing and the corporate agenda, which is something like ‘Oh, it looks like the last one, can’t we make it look different? Well no, there’s no reason for that. The iMac was based on a spherical tube that took a lot of effort to create, so of course you have to change the shape and the materials. We don’t make any products with cathode ray tubes anymore. In addition, we’ve also drastically changed the way we make our products because we’ve learned so much and turned them into something much better.
  • Speaking about creativity and the origin and evolution of ideas, Ive comments: “The best ideas start as conversations. A small change at the beginning of the design process defines a completely different product at the end. At the beginning of the process the idea is just a thought, very fragile and unique. When its first physical manifestation is created everything changes. It stops being exclusive, and now it involves a lot of people. To do something innovative is to reject reason.”
  • “We should not be afraid of failure. If we don’t fail it’s because we’re not ambitious. 80% of what you do is not going to work. If something isn’t good enough, stop doing it.” (…) “We reject nine ideas for every one that works.” That’s why Ive doesn’t believe in the idea that plagiarism is a form of admiration. “One of the sad things about all this, and maybe why we can seem a bit irritable when we’ve worked on something for eight years and it’s copied in six months, is that it wasn’t something inevitable that it would work… It’s not copying, it’s stealing. They steal our time, time we could spend with our families. I’m very firm about that. The flatterer? No.”
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    And we talk about values: “What we do attests to who we are. People can be careful or careless. This applied by others is particularly offensive.” As for Apple’s motivations, as she has repeated on more than one occasion, Ive again stressed: “We have a clear goal, and it is not to make money. The goal is to desperately try to make the best products we can. We are not naive, we are confident that if we succeed and make great products, people will like them and buy them. We know what we’re doing, so we’ll make money, but it’s a consequence.

  • Finally, now that she is also at the forefront of software design and not just hardware design at Apple, Ive talks about the challenges and commonalities she has found: “Design is design. The medium is different and there’s a lot to learn but the principles of design are always relevant.” For Ive, the three concepts every designer should prioritise are: 1. 2. Learn how to focus. And 3. Be prepared to mess up and throw things away.