Jony Ive talks Apple design process, copycats and more in new interview

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Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design, gave an onstage interview last night at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. The executive was among several Silicon Valley elite to participate in the conference, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, and Astro Teller from Google X.

Although Ive has participated in several interviews over the years, his appearance on stage is a rare one—rumor has it that he doesn’t like speaking in front of large crowds. The discussion covered a number of interesting topics, including how Apple goes about designing its new products, life lessons from Steve Jobs, and more.

Here’s a clip from the interview:

And a few of our favorite tidbits (via BusinessInsider):

Q: What do you think of Xiaomi, the Chinese startup often criticized for copying Apple designs?

Jony: There is a danger…I don’t see it as flattery. I see it as theft. (Talking about copying desings in general). When you’re doing something for the first time and you don’t know it’s going to work. I have to be honest the last thing I think is “Oh, that is flattering. All those weekends I could’ve been home with my family…I think it’s theft and lazy. I don’t think it’s OK at all.”

Q: Lessons working with Steve Jobs?

Jony: Focus. Steve was the most focused person I’ve met in my life. It’s terrifying that when you really truly focus, it seems a bit illegal. You can achieve so much. Steve would say “How many things have you said no to?” And I would have these sacrificial things…and he knew that I wasn’t interested in doing those things anyway. What focus means is saying no with every bone in your body to something you know is a good idea but you say no because you’re focused on something else.

I remember talking to Steve Jobs and asked why he was perceived as harsh. And I said couldn’t we be more moderate? And he said why? And I said because I care about the team. And he said: “No Jony, you’re just really vain. You just want people to like you. I’m surprised at you, because I thought you really held the work up as the most important and not how you are perceived by people.”

People misunderstand Steve because he was so focused.

Q: What’s your typical day like?

Jony: One of the advantages of being part of a design team that’s been around for a long time is we’ve had the luxury to develop our process. We meet three or four times a week.

The designers gather around the same kind of tablets you see in Apple Stores. We stand around those tables…and we draw.

Jony Ive began working with Apple in the early 90’s as a design consultant through a London studio called Tangerine. He joined the Cupertino firm full-time in 1992, and went on to design a slew of hit products including the iMac, iPod and of course iPhone and iPad. He is now SVP of design and head of Human Interface.

For more on Ive’s Vanity Fair interview, BusinessInsider has a shorthand transcript of the conversation.

[Vanity Fair via BI]