Values drive R&D at Apple

28 May 2012

CUPERTINO: Apple, the electronics giant, will rely on the values of "simplicity", "clarity" and "care" as it seeks to identify new products capable of further enhancing its portfolio.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Jonathan Ive, the firm's SVP, industrial design, argued that clarifying the "purpose and place of an object and product" was vital to achieving "simplicity" in design, not just the absence of "clutter".

"Our products are tools and we don't want design to get in the way. We're trying to bring simplicity and clarity; we're trying to order the products," he said.

"We try to develop products that seem somehow inevitable, that leave you with the sense that that's the only possible solution that makes sense."

Ive has worked on a wide range of gadgets for the company, with major successes including the iMac computer, introduced in 1998, and the iPod music player, rolled out in 2001.

More recently, the iPhone mobile handset hit stores in 2007 and the iPad tablet launched in 2010. In every instance, finding the perfect answer to unseen problems, or "finishing the back of the drawer", has proved a particular priority.

"It's a way that you demonstrate that you care for the people that you are making these products for," Ive said. "I think we see ourselves as having a civic responsibility to do that. It's important. It's right. It's very hard to explain why."

While Apple promotes expertise and excellence in core areas, Ive suggested the innovation process involves a flexible exchange between electrical and mechanical engineers, and its industrial designers.

"We're developing products in exactly the same way that we were two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago," he added. "What we're working on now feels like the most important and the best work we've done."

However, some missteps have occurred, like the Power Mac G4 Cube, a personal computer sold from 2000 to 2001. "There's no learning without trying lots of ideas and failing lots of times," Ive said.

"For a significant percentage of the time we don't know whether we are going to have to give up on an idea or not. And that's been the case whether it's the iPod, the iPhone or the iPad.

"On a number of occasions we've actually all been honest with ourselves and said 'you know, this isn't good enough, we need to stop'. And that's very difficult."

Data sourced from Daily Telegraph; additional content by Warc staff