Jonathan Ive is Apple's vice-president of industrial design, whose credits include the iMac, iBook and the iPod. His latest creation is the iPhone 4. The geezer from Chingford, who studied Industrial Design at the then Newcastle Polytechnic has been talking to Core77, (opens in new tab)a magazine for industrial designers.
According to Ive, in a design it's the materials that come first. "A big part of the experience of a physical object has to do with the materials," he told Core77. "We experiment with and explore materials, processing them, learning about the inherent properties of the material--and the process of transforming it from raw material to finished product; for example, understanding exactly how the processes of machining it or grinding it affect it. That understanding, that preoccupation with the materials and processes, is essential to the way we work."
The iPhone 4 is made of scratch-resistant aluminosilicate glass, with a of stainless steel edge. The black breaks, which have been causing a bit of bother (opens in new tab) with call signals "are co-moulded in" Ive said. "and then the band goes through more processes."
He added: "So it's assembled first, the band, and then the final machining and grinding are performed, so the tolerances are extraordinary.... Whatever people's feelings are about the actual design of the product is of course subjective. But objectively I can say that the manufacturing tolerances are phenomenal. And we determined this, we designed it from the very beginning to meet those goals."
For Ive, the best design "explicitly acknowledges that you cannot disconnect the form from the material - the material informs the form."
He said: "It is the polar opposite of working virtually in CAD to create an arbitrary form that you then render as a particular material, annotating a part and saying 'that's wood' and so on. Because when an object's materials, the materials' processes and the form are all perfectly aligned, that object has a very real resonance on lots of levels. People recognize that object as authentic and real in a very particular way."
"The only way you truly understand a material is by making things with it," he said.
Just as the only way to find out if the iPhone 4 works is to actually use it
You can read the whole interview here (opens in new tab).