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Apple's Ive talks design, what competitors do wrong

In a rare interview, Apple's design guru tells the London Evening Standard that competitors chase after the wrong goals, and he offers up what Apple does instead.

Sir Jonathan Ive, Apple's SVP of industrial design looks on at iPad 2 buyers at last year's launch in San Francisco.
Apple SVP of industrial design Jonathan Ive (center) watches iPad 2 buyers at last year's launch in San Francisco.
Josh Lowensohn/CNET

According to Apple's design guru, competitors are too busy trying to do something different instead of trying to solve basic problems.

In a rare interview published by the London Evening Standard today, Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, chatted about how the company goes about the design process, and what he believes competitors fail to grasp when going out on a limb with new products.

"Most of our competitors are [interested] in doing something different, or want to appear new - I think those are completely the wrong goals," Ive told the outlet. "A product has to be genuinely better."

How Apple goes about accomplishing that is a collaborative process, Ive argued.

"I work with silicon designers, electronic and mechanical engineers, and I think you would struggle to determine who does what when we get together," Ive said. "We're located together, we share the same goal, have exactly the same preoccupation with making great products."

That thinking is by no means a new modus operandi for Apple. When late co-founder Steve Jobs came back to the company in the late '90s, he changed its focus to have what were varying business units work collaboratively on projects. That principle, which differs from a number of Apple's competitors, has led to products like the iPhone and iPad that now fuel Apple's steep profits.

Ive was named a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (or KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in December "for services to design and enterprise." Like most of Apple's senior executives, Ive--who's been with Apple since 1996--rarely makes public appearances or does interviews with the press. Nonetheless he's a fixture in the company's introductory videos for new products, and occasionally appears in person during keynote speeches to explain new design processes or lend a hand in product demonstrations.