“Designing and developing anything of consequence is incredibly challenging,” says Ive. “Our goal is to try to bring a calm and simplicity to what are incredibly complex problems so that you’re not aware really of the solution, you’re not aware of how hard the problem was that was eventually solved.”
“Simplicity is not the absence of clutter, that’s a consequence of simplicity. Simplicity is somehow essentially describing the purpose and place of an object and product. The absence of clutter is just a clutter-free product. That’s not simple.
“The quest for simplicity has to pervade every part of the process. It really is fundamental.”
After creating so many successful products, Ive could be forgiven for taking for granted the stream of ideas that he and his colleagues have produced over the years. However, he remains in awe of the process. “If you step back and you think about it in a very objective way, it is a remarkable thing that as we sit here right now, there’s not an idea. It just does not exist.
“And you can have this barely formed thought and then suddenly something does actually exist. Then that thought that is so tentative and so fragile normally becomes a tentative discussion and you’re trying to bring body to the thought with words. Generally what happens is that’s a conversation between a couple of people and is exclusive.
“And then you start to draw to try to describe and develop this fragile idea. Then a remarkable thing happens at the time you make the first object, the time that you actually give form and dimension to the idea. In the whole process, that’s the one point where the transition is the most dramatic and suddenly you can involve multiple people. It brings focus and it can galvanise a group of people, which is enormously powerful.”
“For a large percentage of a program, it often is not clear whether we are actually going to be able to solve the problems. 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.”
He goes on: “And there have been times when we’ve been working on a program and when we are at a very mature stage and we do have solutions and you have that sinking feeling because you’re trying to articulate the values to yourself and to others just a little bit too loudly. And you have that sinking feeling that the fact that you are having to articulate the value and persuade other people is probably indicative of the fact that actually it’s not good enough. 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.”