Monday, November 12, 2012

CGAA Design: Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Ive

This week we look at the designer that changed the face of Apple Macintosh computers. Whether you love or hate Apple, it would be hard to argue that Jonathan Ive hasn't changed the face of not only a company, but also modern industrial design as we know it. The sleek, elegant and simple form factor that Apple products are so closely linked with, all started with the ideas of Jonathan Ive. He is very much a man who seems utterly devoted to the process of design and is completely focused on making products that are simple to use and yet also stunning.

What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, but it is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but the next day there is an idea. I find that incredibly exciting and conceptually actually remarkable. - Jonathan Ive

Ive's rarely speaks to the media or gives any kind of interview, but from the short moments we see of him, it is immediately noticeable that he simply loves the process of design. He strives to make products that are simple, uncluttered and immersive. In this respect, he wants the products to simply do it's job.

When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical. - Jonathan Ive

Modern technology often comes with an array of problems, the simple tasks we wish to carry out are often plagued with interface and usability issues. Products have complications, design features and additions that make the core use that much harder. Ive's seems to develop ideas in response to this issue. His products are an attempt to bring the consumer closer to their end goal, without the aggravation of bad product design.

"Other issues would be...just physically how do you connect with the for example the iPhone, everything defers to the display...A lot of what we seem to be doing with a product like that is actually getting design out the way. And I think when forms develop with that sort of reason and they're not just arbitrary shapes, it feels almost inevitable. It feels almost un-designed." - Jonathan Ive

Of course, Ive's style and understanding has been influenced by designers before him. Namely, the work of Dieter Rams, the German designer who brought life to Braun and famously cited 10 Principles of Good Design. Ram's went on to conclude that Apple is one of the few design companies to live up to his 10 rules.

Good Design Is Innovative - The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Good Design Makes a Product Useful -A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good Design Is Aesthetic - The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good Design Makes A Product Understandable - It clarifies the product's structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user's intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Good Design Is Unobtrusive - Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user's self-expression.

Good Design Is Honest - It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept

Good Design Is Long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today's throwaway society.

Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail - Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly - Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible - Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity. [1]

Hopefully one can appreciate Ives without being too dedicated to the Apple debate. A loud chorus of dedicated fans have drowned out the normal discussion about Apple. Even if the products don't suit you, the man who designed them has an extraordinary attitude. It is that of the most incredible humans, the curious nature and want to understand. In simple, the want to make things better for people in the only way one knows how. I rarely use Apple products, largely because my work and lifestyle work best on PCs, but I have always admired the pure craftsmanship that goes into their products. There is a beauty and respect to design that shows through, demonstrating that these products are important aspects of our everyday lives. Not necessarily in a materialist and cynical manner (which would be a valid viewpoint), but rather objects that help develop our lives in a positive way. Despite some of the horrible culture that surrounds such technology, every time I hear Jonathan Ive's speak I completely believe that he simply cares about designing better products.

Further Reading and References

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