Excerpts from Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products

A few days ago I finished reading Leander Kahney’s book on Jony Ive. Here are the parts that I highlighted. I don’t recommend reading the book unless you’re really deep into Apple history and design, but I did find many of these interesting.

  • For Jony, it's all about the work-- but when talking about his work, he replaces I with we.

  • In my crude comparison, the Goldsmiths student thinks a lot about what they are doing, whereas the Northumbria student gets on and does it.

  • In his first year he took a sculpting class. The professor was allergic to plaster dust and had to wear a mask and rubber gloves, but taught the class week after week. Jony was impressed by the instructor's dedication, but, even more, by the manner in which the professor treated the student sculptures. He took an almost reverential approach to their creations. He would carefully clear all the dust off the students' sculptures before talking about them-- even if the work was terrible. "There was something about respecting the work," Jony said, "the idea that actually it was important-- and if you didn't take the time to do it, why should anybody else?"

  • Jonathan's desire for perfection meant that every single model had a tiny change and the only way he could understand if it was the right change or not was to make a physical model of it.

  • To get a grip on the project, he began with its design "story"-- that is, by asking himself, What's the story of this product?

  • To most people a lid is just a lid, but Jony gave it special attention. "It's the first thing you see and the first thing you interact with," Jony said. "Before you can turn the product on, you must first open the lid. I wanted that moment to be special."

  • The IDg was a great place to work; it seemed like nobody ever quit. But the lack of turnover was actually a challenge. Jony would admit to complicated feelings about the stability of the team. "Though we don't want people to leave the group, the lack of movement makes it difficult to bring in fresh talent," he said. "We need new people at regular intervals to prevent ourselves from stagnating. But this can only happen if other people are willing to leave."

  • Most of all, Jony had what Brunner called "the full spectrum mentality." He saw the big picture and the details.

  • "The iMac revolved not around chip speed or market share but squishy questions like 'How do we want people to feel about it?' and 'What part of our minds should it occupy?'"

  • "When you move on, you leave some things behind. ... if there is not some sort of friction in a move forward, your step is not as consequential as you'd like to believe it is." (Jony on lack of floppy drive in the iMac)

  • Jony countered that iMac wasn't designed to look different, but the machine ended up being different as a natural consequence of the design process. "I think a lot of people see design as a means to differentiate the product competitively," he said. "I really detest that. That is just a corporate agenda, not a customer of people agenda. It is important to understand that our goal wasn't just to differentiate our product, but to create products that people would love in the future. Differentiate was a consequence of our goal."

  • From early on we wanted something that would seem so natural and so inevitable and so simple you almost wouldn't think of it as having been designed.

  • The process inevitably reduced and reduced, resulting in a device with four buttons mounted on a dial.

  • He started mapping out all the options a user would face when selecting a song: the artists, their albums and finally all the songs on a particular album. "When I diagramed it out it was a series of lists connected to each other," he said. "It was a question of pressing a button to go down to the next list, and pressing another button to come back up."

  • Our goal was to design the very, very best mp3 player we could; to design something that could become an icon.

  • "If there was ever a product that catalyzed Apple's reason for being, it's this. ... if anybody was ever wondering why Apple is on the earth, I would hold up this as a good example." (Steve Jobs on the iPod)

  • "We have been, on a number of occasions, preparing for mass production and in a room and realized we are talking a little too loud about the virtues of something. That to me is always the danger, if I'm trying to talk a little too loud about something and realizing I'm trying to convince myself that something's good."