If any product is going to make it out of Apple’s famously secretive design lab and into your hands, it needs to have passed a simple and profound test: inevitability.
For head designer Jony Ive and his team, it’s essential.
“So much of what we try to do is get to a point where the solution seems inevitable,” Ive told the design magazine Icon in 2003. “You know, you think ‘of course it’s that way, why would it be any other way?’ It looks so obvious, but that sense of inevitability in the solution is really hard to achieve.”
But when it is achieved, Apple triumphs — to the tune of a record-breaking $US700 million market cap.
A recent New Yorker profile highlighted Ive’s obsession with inevitability.
Design team member Evans Hankey told the New Yorker that in the design lab, inevitability worked like this:
An existing product is often set alongside a model of a potential successor, to see if “the one that we’ve been enjoying for a couple of years or so — if it just feels really old and kind of stodgy, and the new one feels just amazing.” … Once a new model feels “inevitable,” Hankey said, “we know we have a lot to do, but at least the foundation is solid.”
As consumers, that inevitability can be seen in the way Apple’s products evolve: Every new iPhone feels somehow tighter and more robust than the one before it. With (almost) every iteration, the Apple mouse has become more elegant.
Ive has said that inevitability results from bringing simplicity, clarity, and order to products, so that Apple’s offerings are more intuitive than everybody else’s.
The point is to leave the user with “the sense that [the product] is the only possible solution that makes sense,” Ive said.
Think about when the first iPods came out back in 2001. Instead of going to the store and picking up albums or burning your favourite tracks to a mix CD, you could just download songs and transfer them to your iPod.
In that single product, Apple changed an industry.
When you look back, it seems inevitable.
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