Subjects covered included the management style of chief executive Tim Cook; new materials being worked on for as-yet unannounced products, and Ive's expanded role overseeing the design of Apple's software as well as it's hardware.
Here are nine things we learned from the interview:
1) Small teams remain the key to good design
Apple has always prided itself on the industrial design of its products. Ive talks about his belief that design is best done in small teams, with Apple's having been together for the past 15-20 years.
“It has always been a case where you have a number of small groups working together,” said Ive. “Creative teams are small and very focused. One of the underlying characteristics is being inquisitive and being curious. Some of those personal attributes and hallmarks haven’t changed at all.”
“Titles or organisational structures, that’s not the lens through which we see our peers,” said Ive describing something much more free and collaborative than a clearly structured hierarchy where ideas come from the top down.
2) Manufacturing blended with design
Ive also trumpets Apple’s two-pronged design ethos, blending manufacturing and design when creating new products. "Making isn’t just this inevitable function tacked on at the end,” he said.
“This is part of Steve’s legacy. Deep in the culture of Apple is this sense and understanding of design, developing and making. Form and the material and process – they are beautifully intertwined – completely connected."
3 Tim Cook very much a part of Steve Jobs’s vision
Ive has been core to Apple’s products for the last 15 to 20 years, but so has the company’s current chief executive Tim Cook, brought tightly into the fold by co-founder Steve Jobs as part of his succession plan.
“Steve established a set of values, and he established preoccupations and tones that are completely enduring – and he established those principles with a small team of people. I’ve been ridiculously lucky to be part of it. But Tim was very much part of that team – for that last 15 or 20 years," said Ive.
Cook was instrumental in the move from plastic laptops to the new metal Apple PowerBooks first released in 1997, which set the design language and product expectations that have stretched all the way through to the current day MacBook Pros and Airs.
“I remember clearly a time when we made plastic portable computers, and Steve and Tim and I sat down and said we wanted to build an incredibly thin and light portable computer,” quipped Ive.
4 Apple working in new materials for new products
Apple, like any technology company, is constantly working on new products in new categories behind the scenes, which often never see the light of day. Although Ive wouldn’t be drawn on specifics – surprise! – he did hint that some new products are on their way made out of materials Apple has yet to use in a device.
“I would love to talk about future stuff – they’re materials we haven’t worked in before. I’ve been working on this stuff for a few years now. Tim is fundamentally involved in pushing into these new areas and into these materials,” said Ive.
Whether that indicates that Apple’s long expected smart-watch is due soon, using one of those brand new materials, remains to be seen.
5 Ive heading software
A lot was made of Ive’s move to head software design as well as hardware design, with Apple’s last iPhone and iPad software being called “Ive’s iOS 7” by pundits, but the organisational shift is not quite as dramatic as commentators made out, according to Ive.
6 Focus is the key to success
“One of the values of things I learned absolutely directly from Steve was the whole issue of focus. What are we focusing on: focus on product,” said Ive.
Apple makes very few products compared to most electronics companies, especially in the mobile space where it has four current models, the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad Air and iPad mini. Others like Samsung have 10s of products in their lineups.
“When that truly is your reason for coming into the studio, is just to try to make the very best product you can, when that is exclusive of everything else, it’s remarkable how insignificant or unimportant a lot of other stuff becomes,” Ive explained.
7 Cook as a manager
Cook took the reins at Apple in 2011, after Jobs took medical leave. His speciality was supply chain management, which some thought would change the ethos at the company. Jobs was a notorious stickler for detail, ruling some parts of the company with an iron fist. According to Ive, Cook applies a similar discipline to his role.
“We meet on average three times a week. Sometimes those meetings are over in his space, sometimes here in the design studio,” said Ive.
“Heading on for two decades working with Tim, one of the things I have always admired is the quiet consideration he gives to trying to understand how he perceives something. He will take the time. I think that testifies to the fact that he knows it’s important,” he said.
8 Patience is a virtue Apple struggles to maintain
On the outside, Apple projects an image of cool, calm and collected consideration, only launching products when they’re ready and at the right time. But the internal workings aren’t quite as machine like and keeping things under wraps is a challenge.
“It is hard for us all to be patient. It was hard for Steve. It is hard for Tim,” said Ive. “At any point in time, working on something, it’s always hard to just keep focusing on the product.”
9 Apple is still defiant
Apple has been slated in the past for releasing products that many commentators have dismissed at first, claiming that they are nothing new. Ive sees this as business as usual.
“Honestly, I don’t think anything’s changed. People felt exactly the same way when we were working on iPhone. The iPhone was broadly dismissed. The iPod was broadly dismissed. The iPad was probably more copiously written off as a large iPod,” said Ive.
Ive also relishes in the challenge of pushing boundaries, and is not afraid to fail, at least internally when producing new products.
“If doing anything new, you’re very used to having insurmountable obstacles. At some point you have to make a call — at some point you have to say, ‘We’ve stretched this and we’ve come up against laws of physics, which we cannot change’,” said Ive
“The benefit of hindsight is we only really talk about those things that did work out,“ he concludes.
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