DM25: Re-Designing The Future

>> Care. Integrity. A desire to do ‘better’. These were the powerful, thought-provoking and profound words echoed by the Senior Vice President of Design at Apple (and one of the most humble designers I’ve met) Jonathan Ive. Back in November I attended the Design Museums’ DM25 sell-out talk with Jonathan. A series of design led talks by some of the most creative & pioneering designers in their field, conceived in celebration of the museums’ 25th anniversary. The room was filled to the rafters with some of most innovative designers of our profession – designers such as Sir Terence Conran, Sebastian Conran, Ron Arad to John Pawson, yet we were all stimulatingly captivated by Jonathan’s eloquent description & depiction of his own ideas & philosophies on design and its future.    

One thing is crystal clear, Jonathan is intensely passionate about creating products with its motivational pull being the element of ‘care’ at its forefront. Explaining that as individuals we can sense the care within the design in the same vain that we can sense carelessness, Jonathan testified that good design ultimately comes from this catalyst. What drew Jonathan to Apple, by his own admission, was a product – his first encounter with the mac. This intimate rendezvous gave him a profound sense of who the individuals were behind the product, what they stood for, their values and their impetus. Through this encounter it was clear that what we make completely testifies to what we are and as such is a reflection of us as designers. The motivation to good design is not fiscally driven in its entirety, it is born through a motivation to desperately produce the best product of your capabilities through good design. 

Remembering and recognising the reason why we design is imperative in creating the best product possible. Jonathan reminded us that although the use of CAD and computer rending has its advantages, it’s important that we can fully comprehend the behaviour of materials in its natural organic form. This can only be appreciated and conquered through ‘making’ – a skill which appears to be lacking in design education. It was only recently that the New Bucks University in High Wycombe announced that it will cease recruiting for its renowned undergraduate furniture design courses. Neil Austin – Portfolio Leader of Design at the university stated that for some universities the type of education required to succeed in the creative industry is not considered a valuable commodity. This is doing such a disservice to young emerging designers as Jonathan states that when some potential candidates arrive at interview their ability to ‘make’ is somewhat lacking.

With the UK government announcing an injection of £141 million into a fruitful project to turn the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park into an ‘Olympicopolis’ of culture and education this appears to be a promising comeback. Add to this the confirmation that the London College of Fashion plans to create a new campus on the site by 2020, unifying all the colleges students & staff into one facility dedicating 32,000m2 of the park to a “research & education hub for the global fashion industry, near the heart of the East End fashion trade”. Additionally University College London (UCL) also plan to put down creative roots within the Olympicopolis creative quarter, building its first School of Design. UCL confirmed that this new campus will provide “new taught courses in design, alongside research and innovation opportunities”.  This neck of the wood will also be neighbours to a new section of The Victoria & Albert Museum in addition to Salder’s Wells and the Smithsonian. This indeed shows strength and renewed growth in the UKs design, culture and education sectors.

“We won’t do different for difference sake – What is difficult is ‘better’!”

– Jonathan Ive – VP Design, Apple

Cartier’s Tank Anglaise Watch, Source:

Cartier’s Tank Anglaise Watch, Source:


“People can sense care in the same way that they can sense carelessness”

– Jonathan Ive – VP Design, Apple


Cartier Atelier - Source:

Cartier Atelier – Source:

We then got a glimpse behind the passion and foresight which propels the forthcoming launch of the iWatch. The timepiece which went from the clock-tower to the wrist made its transition from architectural technology thus making the watch a more intimate piece entering into the home. Due to the commissioning by Louis Francis Cartier, the watch made this phenomenal leap into wearable technology. This significant shift, Jonathan highlights, is parallel to the problems we face today with technology moving from the desk-to the pocket-to our person.  Jonathan was quite clear to testify that Apple have designed a flexible system which may have a single appeal and yet is not just a single product. A design driven by pragmatism and unity Apple knew that if its functionality was flawed in some way it would inevitably become immediately redundantly, therefore the key would be to have the optimum level of functionality.  


“What we make completely testifies to what we are”

– Jonathan Ive – VP Design, Apple

As creative individuals we’re constantly infatuated and enticed by the creative process and Jonathan even more so. “The best ideas start as conversations” – a statement which rings true to many of us. Through the design process of my masters thesis the very interaction and discuss of ideas really assisted in fleshing-out my original concept, taking me through avenues which may not have been previously considered. Through discipline, refining your idea into a few concise, succinct sentences can you then strengthen your idea into a sustainable core value to refer back to. An idea at this very stage of the creative process then begins to feel like a luxury – exclusive, precious & rich [in its creativity]. It is however when your idea manifests into its first physical form that everything changes. Jonathan reminds us that once that idea becomes palpable its no longer exclusive and therefore less open to interpretation. This profound shift, gives your idea ‘body’ and is one of the most difficult yet fundamental part of the design process. 

IMAGES: Courtesy of Design Museum | PHOTOGRAPHY: Andy Tyler

Further Reading:

Design Week | University of the Arts London | East London Lines | Dezeen

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