Jony Ive Talks at Hirshhorn Museum About His Design Team, Apple’s Culture of Secrecy

In an interview at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, Apple’s head of design Jony Ive talked about a variety of topics including his design team and Apple rumours.

Even though Apple is the most valuable company in the world, the industrial design team only consists of 20 people. Ive feels that this intimate approach to constructing a team is what makes Apple products so successful.

“Apple to me is just a collection of people, a collection of people who are united with the same set of values and goals. And it’s a very diverse group of people. But the one thing I’ve found is when you’re dealing with abstract ideas, that’s the part of the process that’s probably the most challenging. These ideas are also fragile. That’s the point that’s so important you get to as a team. The team is small enough that you can all communicate what that tentative, very hard to articulate idea is. It gets easier when you can give them body and they become a three-dimensional thing.”

Ive also spoke about the company’s culture of secrecy, saying that it is an expression of realism and humility.

“Apple has been practicing, trying to create, develop hardware and software for decades . . . and from our experience, it’s sort of better to do the work and say, “hey, we made this,” rather than to announce to everyone, “we are going to do this.””

That secrecy extends within the company as much as it does outside the company. Even Ive doesn’t know when a product is complete.

“You might say that [you know when a product is done], but your tummy might be doing something else. Because you don’t know. I wish I could explain this well, and I know I’m going to do an appalling job, but you don’t realize how profoundly your perception of all of this is reined by the fact that it’s a finished thing. The difference between an idea or an early model, isn’t in its time, but it’s that you’ve solved a lot of its problems. So for 99% of the design process, and development process, it’s failing. And it doesn’t work. If it did work, then we’d be shipping it. So you spend most of your time worried and thinking, “this is not working.” And I know that sounds sort of naive and very obvious, but that’s a really big deal. And so there’s this weird faith that you have, so that’s when you depend again on the group of people with whom you’ve been doing this with for years and years and years, and we can look at each other with that slightly startled, sort of terrified look. That’s where experience, not only as an individual, but experience as a group is really important.”

Fast Co Design has posted a full breakdown of the interview, and its definitely worth checking out.