British-born Ive was speaking at a British Business Embassy event to coincide with the Olympics.
On Apple almost saying no to the iPhone…
Ive explained: “There were multiple times where we nearly shelved the phone because we thought there were fundamental problems that we can’t solve.”
He elaborated on one such problem: “Where I put the phone to my ear and my ear dials the number”, notes The Independent.
And sometimes saying no to other products…
According to Ive there are some alarm bells to listen for when it comes to deciding whether to ditch, the most subtle being: “You have that horrible, horrible feeling deep down in your tummy and you know that it’s OK but it’s not great. And I think some of the bravest things we’ve ever done are really at that point when you say, ‘that’s good and it’s competent, but it not’s great’.”
Another thing to watch for is when you realise you are trying to hard to sell the idea. He explained: “We have been, on a number of occasions, preparing for mass production and in a room and realised 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 realising I’m trying to convince myself that something’s good.”
“If we’re honest about wanting to make the best possible products that we can, that genuinely means saying no because we don’t believe it’s good enough,” Ive concluded.
Why it’s good to limit the number of devices…
Apple is unlike many other consumer electronics companies because it doesn’t have multiple iterations of the same product. Ive explained: “We say no to a lot of things that we want to do and are intrigued by so that we only work on a manageable amount of products and can invest an incredible amount of care on each of them.”
On design and innovation
Not surprisingly for an award-winning designer, Ive noted the importance of design in his presentation. He said: “I refute that design is important. Design is a prerequisite. Good design – innovation – is really hard… Really great design is hard. Good is the enemy of great. Competent design is not too much of a stretch. But if you are trying to do something new, you have challenges on so many axes.”
Attempting to describe the creative process
Ive attempted to describe what it is like to be part of the creative process. “To me I still think it’s remarkable that at a point in time on a Tuesday afternoon there isn’t an idea and then suddenly later on there is an idea. Invariably they start as a tentative, barely-formed thought that becomes a conversation between a couple of people,” he said.
He elaborated further: “You go from something tentative and exclusive to something tangible and – by nature of it being a thing – a table of people can sit around it and start to understand it; it becomes inclusive and it galvanises and points to a direction for effort.”
The creative process doesn’t involve market research, something dismissed by Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs. Ive explained: “We don’t do market research… It will guarantee mediocrity and will only work out whether you are going to offend anyone.”
Why Apple’s goal isn’t making money
“Our goal is not to make money – that may sound a little flippant but it happens to be true. Our goal, and what makes us exist, is to make great products,” he said.
Ive referred to Steve Jobs: “His observation was that the products weren’t good enough. His resolve was to make better products,” writes Wired.