Watch Apple show off its design studio at 7:30PM Eastern
60 Minutes is going inside Apple’s ‘secret’ design lab on Sunday.
In an upcoming 60 Minutes segment, Charlie Rose will take viewers inside Apple AAPL -2.55% design SVP Jony Ive’s top-secret studio at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Cal.TV viewers in the US will get a sneak peek at Apple’s plans for the future this Sunday when 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose visits the company’s headquarters.
According to latest news report, The CEO of Apple, the world’s biggest and richest company, says the notion that his company is avoiding taxes on overseas profits is just “political crap” coming from politicians who refuse to change an antiquated tax code. Rose will visit Jony Ive’s “secret” design studio, and will take a tour of the “Apple’s store of the future,” guided by Apple retail head Angela Ahrendts. Charlie Rose conducts a wide-ranging interview with Tim Cook in which the Apple CEO also addresses his company’s other hot-button issues including encryption technology and manufacturing products in China, according to cbsnews In addition, Rose speaks to Apple design chief Jonathan Ive, who lets 60 Minutes cameras into his studio for a rare look at the process that gave birth to revolutionary products like the iPhone and iPad. While the show isn’t likely to reveal a mockup for the next iPhone, it should give a rare insight into the studio in which Apple veteran Ive designs Apple’s products — at a time when Apple’s most recent designs have come in for criticism.
For the last 18 years — since Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997 — most of them have come out of Apple’s Industrial Design studio, a small and secretive group of creatives headed up by celebrated British designer Sir Jony Ive. Ive is considered to be the mastermind behind Apple’s iconically minimalist aesthetic, and a February profile in the New Yorker has called him “one of the two most powerful people” at Apple. They conceive and create new products, refine existing ones, and do some fundamental research and development, though they are not the only R&D group within the company.
Combining those two interviews, conducted in the past two years, with these upcoming ones and we’re seeing an Apple that’s a bit more open that it used to be. Ive and his core design team, which the publication reports consists of 19 people, rarely speak in public about their work, making his 60 Minutes appearance and tour unusual—and very much worth watching.
Apple holds $181.1 billion in taxable income overseas, by far the highest amount any U.S. company holds outside the country. “Apple pays every tax dollar we owe,” Cook told 60 Minutes’ Charlie Rose, according to excerpts from the interview released on Friday. And it’s also working with engineering groups to, as I say, bring it to life, to bring it to the market and to build the craftsmanship that it absolutely needs to have to have that Apple quality.” Ive’s Industrial Design group is small, about 20 designers from around the world. It should have been fixed many years ago.“ Cook said that two-thirds of the company’s revenue comes from foreign countries and the company keeps that money in its foreign auxiliaries. The founder of the ID group, designer Bob Brunner (now at Ammunition), had set up the original studio across the street to give it some independence from the rest of the company. The desk was custom-made by Marc Newsom, one of Ive’s best friends and now a member of the Industrial Design team. (Newsom was hired in September 2014.) Ive’s leather chair is a Supporto chair from U.K. office furniture manufacturer Hille International.
Ive has named it one of his favorite designs, and selected it for the new Industrial Design Centre in Cupertino, California. “The Supporto is a wonderful chair,” he told ICON magazine. The CAD room is home to about 15 CAD operators or “surface guys.” If the designers want to see what a CAD model looks like as a real object, they’ll send the file to the computer numerical control (CNC) model shop next door. Their covers keep any scrap material contained, so they are “clean.” Behind them are the “dirty” machines — various cutting and drilling machines that can create a mess. They are housed in a room sealed behind glass — the “dirty shop.” Next to the dirty shop and to the right is a finishing room where the models and prototypes get sanded and painted. The CNC machines are used to make initial models or to quickly validate ideas. “They’d get a CAD file for surfacing; they would create a tool path based on the surfaces, do all the setups, and run a part,” said Satzger.
The atmosphere is light and fun. “Someone might be skateboarding in there, doing jumps, or Bart Andre and Chris Stringer kicking a soccer ball,” said Satzger. The music drove his former boss, Jon Rubinstein, to distraction. “They played loud techno-pop in the design studio, which I found really annoying,” he said. “I like quiet so that I can focus and think properly. But the ID guys liked it.” Satzger certainly did. “The energy of that room, the noise of the room made me work a lot better,” Satzger said. “I hated sitting back in my little space…. For me, the louder the noise the better.” “When Steve came in, he wanted the conversation to be between him and the person he was talking to,” said Satzger. “In all these open spaces, if it’s quiet, it’s really easy to hear what people are talking about.
You really couldn’t hear what he was saying.” The studio visibly relaxed Jobs. “Steve in the ID space was a different person,” Satzger said. “He was a lot more relaxed and interactive. The photo shows Jobs, Ive and three other executives sitting and standing around one of the studio’s wooden project tables, with the shop in the background.
When working on new products, the software engineers have no idea what the hardware looks like, and the engineers have no idea how the software works. A former Apple engineer who worked closely with Ive’s group in the Product Design team said the secrecy was exhausting. “Out of everything I’ve ever done in my life, I’ve never seen a more secret environment than working there,” he said. “We were constantly under threat of losing our jobs for revealing any shred of anything. Make one false move and we’ll pull this trigger.” Apple’s policy means that the designers get almost no press, and very little public recognition. As one wag noted, the only time Ive says “I” is when he’s talking about the iPhone or iPad. “We took it as, we’re all getting credit,” said Satzger. “[Apple] always says, ‘the Apple design team,’ but Steve never wanted us to be in front of the camera.
Because we were blocked from facing media and hidden from headhunters and so on, we called ourselves the ‘ID team that’s behind the Iron Curtain.’” It sounds pat, but Ive’s group works as a team and each member contributes to each product. Each product is designated a design lead, who does most of the actual work, plus one or two deputies, though weekly meetings ensure the design process is collaborative. Daniele De Iuliis, an Italian from the U.K., is the coffee guru. “Danny D was the person who educated us all on coffee and grind and the color of the crema, how to properly do the milk, how temperature is important and all that stuff,” said Satzger, who was one of De Iuliis’ keenest disciples. Blogs and magazine articles often note the influence of Braun’s Dieter Rams on Ive’s products, but Apple’s design chief never discusses design philosophy with the group. Of course, all the designers are intimately familiar with Rams’ work and his 10 principles of good design; these have been drummed into the mind of every design student.
If there’s such a thing as a philosophy that drives Ive, it’s the desire to constantly simplify — to do away with as much as possible. “[We] discuss our objectives, and so we can just be talking about what we would want a product to be,” said Apple designer Christopher Stringer. “That ordinarily becomes sketching, so we’ll sit there with our sketch books, and sketch and trade ideas and go back and forth. That’s where the very hard, brutal, honest criticism comes in and we thrash through ideas until we really feel like we’re getting something that’s worth modeling.” Sketching is fundamental to the workflow of Apple’s designers. “I end up sketching everywhere,” said Stringer. “I’ll sketch on looseleaf paper. I’ll sketch on anything I can put my hands on, quite often on top of CAD outputs for want of better things to do.” Stringer likes CAD printouts because they already have the shape of the product. “You’re working with something that already has the perspective set up and the views in a way that you can sort of add in lavish detail upon them,” he said.
He’s good at it, but speed is the key. “He always wanted to get a thought down on paper so that people could understand it really quickly,” said Satzger. “Jony’s drawings were really sketchy, with a shaky hand. They are made from high-quality canvas; being hardbound, they don’t fall to pieces. (Ive uses a blue sketchbook that’s about three times as thick as the Cachet sketchbooks and boasts a ribbon to mark a certain page. At the end of the brainstorm, Ive will sometimes instruct everyone around the table to copy their sketchbooks and give the pages to the lead designer on the project under discussion. The CAD sculptors are not afforded the same special status; they are in service of Ive’s design team. “There are a few designers that are capable of creating CAD themselves, but it’s not a requirement,” said designer Stringer during the Apple-Samsung trial. “In fact, most of us don’t.
How do you find what’s right in the middle?’ And they talked through that process.” The decision about the size of the case seems faintly ridiculous, but it would influence what kind of hard drive the Mac mini could contain. If the case was large enough, the computer could be given a 3.5-inch drive, a size that’s commonly used in desktop machines (and is therefore relatively inexpensive).
Ive and the VPs selected an enclosure that was just 2mm too small to use a less-expensive 3.5-inch drive. “They pick it based on what it looks like, not on the hard drive, which will save money,” said the engineer, who said he didn’t even bring up the size issue because it wouldn’t have made a difference. “Even if we provided that feedback, it’s rare they would change the original intent,” he said. “They went with purely aesthetic form of what it should look like and how big it should be.” Size considerations even influence things like the camera on the iMac. On many occasions, Ive managed up. “A lot of times, it was Jony who would drive Steve,” said Satzger. “He might say to Steve, ‘I think we should change this,’ if he felt that it was important to do something different.’” Jon Rubinstein, Ive’s former boss, described Ive as a great leader of a small, close-knit and extremely talented team.
The Apple designers work well together and were “obviously having fun doing really cool designs.” “Jony is a good leader,” he said. “He is a brilliant designer, and his team respect him. Every day, four to eight of the designers go to lunch together, usually at the Apple cafeteria, though they generally don’t mingle with other staffers.
They liked drinking a lot of champagne and spent a lot of time at Le Colonial,” a stylish French Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco. “At MacWorld we’d get a limo and go,” said Satzger. “The limo was full of Bollinger champagne. Then we’d end up at the Clift Hotel and Bart or Jony would rent a room and the design team, and maybe a couple other people, were always there.” The anonymous former product design engineer remembers being at a black-tie event at the Clift Hotel. “Around midnight, in rolls the ID crew for the after-party that is going on in the hotel lobby,” the engineer said. “Stringer, Ive, Whang and a bunch more were there. During development of the iPhone, the phone’s software team worked upstairs, but the two groups were forbidden by Steve Jobs to communicate with each other.
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