Jony Ive dishes on what it was like to design Apple Watch.

The world's most famous designer, Jony Ive. Photo: Apple

If Jony Ive sometimes missed out on getting his rightful credit while Steve Jobs was steering the ship at Apple, that same accusation can’t be made today. Following on from the recent superb New Yorkerprofile about Ive and the Apple Watch, Apple’s superstar design guru is the recipient of another profile (complete with interview), this time with the Financial Times.

The story’s not nearly as in-depth as the 10,000-word New Yorker piece, but it still has a few interesting observations about Ive’s approach to technology and the unique design challenges of working on the Apple Watch — including why the Apple Watch was a very different prospect for Ive than working on the iPhone.

Ive talks about the “thousands” of hours it took to bring the device to market, with Ive noting that:

“Even now, when the design of the Apple Watch is incredibly mature and has gone through thousands and thousands of hours of evaluation and testing, we’re still working and improving. You are trying to keep everything fluid for as long as possible because everything is so interconnected. The best products are those where you have optimised each attribute while being very conscious of other parts of the product’s performance.”

On the topic of sales — a subject that is currently driving analysts into a frenzy — Ive says that, “I’m much more concerned about how we can make [the Apple Watch] as good as possible than how many we’ll sell. We’re brutally self-critical and go through countless iterations of each product.”

Ive also makes gives a brief insight into why the iPhone still needs daily charging, noting that he’d rather give us a device that is light and thin, as a heavier iPhone would be less “compelling.” We still don’t have an exact answer on how long the Apple Watch’s battery will last (it most likely requires daily charging), but it doesn’t seem a stretch to think the same philosophy was applied there.

Describing this triumph of design over spec-heavy engineering, Ive says that, “It’s easy to forget this now, but back in the 1990s the preoccupation was with technology. The conversation was about chip speed and hard-drive size. We moved that on to include: ‘What colour do I want?’”

One of the most interesting insights Ive makes is about the difference between designing an iPhone, which requires a conscious effort to look at, and an Apple Watch, which is based around quick glances. Ive comments that:

“One of the things that struck mewas how often I’d look at my watch and have to look again quite soon afterwards, because I hadn’t actually comprehended what the time was. If I had looked at something on my phone, because of the investment involved in taking it out of my pocket or my bag, I would certainly pay attention. I quite like this sense of almost being careless and just glancing. I think for certain things the wrist is the perfect place for this technology.”

Finally he describes the difference between working on the original iPhone and the Apple Watch:

“It was different with the phone – all of us working on the first iPhone were driven by an absolute disdain for the cellphones we were using at the time. That’s not the case here. We’re a group of people who love our watches. So we’re working on something, yet have a high regard for what currently exists.”

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