Apple‘s head designer Jonathan Ive says he struggles to hire young staff as schools are failing to teach them how to make products.

Speaking at London’s Design Museum last night, Ive attacked design schools for failing to teach students how to make physical products and relying too heavily on « cheap » computers.

« So many of the designers that we interview don’t know how to make stuff, because workshops in design schools are expensive and computers are cheaper, » said Ive.

« That’s just tragic, that you can spend four years of your life studying the design of three dimensional objects and not make one. »

Ive, who is Apple‘s senior vice president of design, said that students were being taught to use computer programs to make renderings that could « make a dreadful design look really palatable ».

« It’s great if the ultimate result was to be a graphic image, that’s fine, » he said. « But how on earth can you do that if what you’re responsible to produce is a three dimensional object? »











Ive was speaking in conversation with Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic at an event attended by a number of the UK’s leading designers, including Ive’s friend Marc Newson – who has recently joined Apple’s design team – as well as Terence Conran, Ron Arad and John Pawson.

Although he said that students were being taught to rely too heavily on computers, the British-born designer said that he didn’t expect designers to abandon digital tools.

« We use the most sophisticated tools that we can to help us model and to help us prototype. I’m not saying you’ve got to prototype everything using a coping saw, » said Ive.

« It comes back to motivation and a sense of why are you doing this. Why is your first reaction not to run and go and understand glass and what you can do with glass? Why is your first reaction to start doing Alias renderings of glass cups? »

Ive studied industrial design in Newcastle in the 1980s, before moving to California to join Apple in 1992. His comments come in the wake of a series of design course closures in Britain that have been attributed to the costs associated with facilities needed for making physical objects.

In February, Bucks New University revealed it was closing the UK’s leading furniture design course, while Falmouth University in south west England shut down its « costly » and « space-intensive » Contemporary Crafts degree earlier this month in favour of more computer-based courses.

Picking up on statements he originally made in 2012, Ive said that Apple – named the world’s most valuable brand by Forbes in 2013 – had become one of the world’s biggest companies by not chasing profit and instead focusing on « integrity ».

« We’ve tried very hard to be very clear, and this is absolutely sincere, that our goal at Apple isn’t to make money, » he said.

« We’re not naive. We trust that if we’re successful and we make good products, that people will like them. And we trust that if people like them, they’ll buy them. Operationally we are effective and we know what we’re doing and so we will make money. It’s a consequence. »

« You can look at something we’ve done and it costs a lot more to make it the way that we want to make it. I can’t justify that extraordinary additional amount of money to make it other than it’s the right thing to do. It’s made it better. There’s integrity there. You hope that people can tell the difference. »

Ive also hit out again at companies that copy Apple’s designs, which he said take up to eight years of design development work to produce.

« We may seem a little testy when things we have been working on for eight years are copied in six months – but it wasn’t inevitable that it was going to work. »

« It’s not copying, it’s theft. They stole our time, time we could have had with our families. I actually feel quite strongly about it. It’s funny – I was talking to somebody and they said do you think when somebody copies what you do it’s flattering? No. »











Ive said that to create something new, designers had to « reject reason » and accept when a project wasn’t working and stop working on it, even if significant money has already been invested.

Most designers are too quick to give in to pressures from marketing departments and corporations, but Apple’s products have a more uniform aesthetic because there is no reason to change them, he added.

« To do something new and truly innovative, does require you reject reason. And the problem is when you do that, the behaviours, what that looks like, can make you look a bit odd. »

« We won’t do something different for different’s sake. Designers cave in to marketing, to the corporate agenda, which is sort of ‘oh it looks like the last one, can’t we make it look different?’ Well no, there’s no reason to. »

« We have a strong philosophy – you could call it formulaic or you could say it’s a philosophy – and we will develop product to that philosophy. When some big things change, the objects will appear different, the objects will be made from other materials. But I think it’s wrong to make something different for the sake of being different. »

Ive’s talk was the final event in the DM25 series launched to both celebrate the museum’s 25th anniversary and help raise funds for its move to a bigger building in Kensington, west London, next year.

During the hour long event, Ive also discussed the design of the iPhone and the recently revealed Apple Watch.

And he slammed companies and designers who were producing « careless » products.

« If you expect me to buy something where all I can sense is carelessness, actually I think that is personally offensive, » he said. « It’s offensive culturally, because it shows a disregard for our fellow human. »

« The sad thing is that so much of what we’re surrounded by in the physical world that is a product of manufacture, so much of it testifies to carelessness. The one good thing about that is if you do care it is really conspicuous. »


Date of publication: November 13, 2014
Photos: Andy Tyler