From the iPod to the MacBook Air to the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s style and product design are widely imitated by competitors — you need only glance at the product lineups from Asus, Samsung, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and many others to get a sense of this. While using Apple’s design as inspiration has backfired in terms of sales results for some, it has been a boon to Samsung — which is the exception.
So how can consumer electronics makers avoid merely matching new Apple features or design elements and try to think ahead of the company’s designers? Apple SVP of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive did a rare Q&A with the London Evening Standard about Apple’s iterative design process, how the company dreams up new product ideas, how and when it decides to update devices and why copycat designs often fail:
Q: How does a new product come about at Apple?
A: What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea. Where you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you make a 3D model, however crude, you bring form to a nebulous idea and everything changes — the entire process shifts. It galvanises and brings focus from a broad group of people. It’s a remarkable process.
Q: What are your goals when setting out to build a new product?
A: Our goals are very simple — to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.
Q: Why has Apple’s competition struggled to do that?
A: Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us — a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better.
Head over here to read the rest of the interview.