Christopher Stringer, a longtime member of Apple’s industrial design team, had one of the most memorable moments of the ongoing patent trial when he revealed that most Apple products are initially designed by a small group of just 15 or 16 employees sitting around a kitchen table.
While Stringer didn’t name names, that group is almost certainly Apple’s elite Industrial Design Group. There are plenty of other designers who work at Apple, but this group literally gives shape to Apple’s products.
Despite all the influence this team has on Apple’s product, most of the employees are relatively unknown. A 2006 BusinessWeek article describes this group as a small, international group mostly in their 30s and 40s, who frequently dine and travel together outside of work.
Several members of this group, including Stringer, were referred to over the course of the trial for their role in designing early prototypes of the iPhone and iPad. Many others were mentioned repeatedly in court documents thanks to the patents they hold on Apple products. As Stringer noted, there is a fairly consistent group of about 16 Apple employees whose names consistently appear on the major Apple patents of recent years.
We’ve rounded up some of the key members of the design team, based on these court documents and patent filings.
Jonathan Ive is the head of the industrial design team and serves as the face of Apple's design efforts. He has overseen the design of Apple's popular i-devices, including the iMac, iPhone and iPad. Ive was particularly close to Apple's former CEO Steve Jobs and he is seen by many as the one most responsible for carrying on Jobs' vision for consumer products.
Christopher Stringer, seen here with Ive at a product launch event, has been intimately involved with every Apple product since 1995. He was also the first person called to testify in the trial between Apple and Samsung, showing off his importance to the company.
Shin Nishibori ended up at the centre of the patent trial early on for creating a series of Sony-inspired designs for the iPhone back in 2006. Samsung wanted to call Nishibori to testify in the trial, but he revealed that he had just stepped down from the design team due to health issues. Nishibori's LinkedIn page shows that the designer worked at Apple for a decade until he left last month.
Richard Howarth's name was also dropped during the patent trial for coordinating with Nishibori on the Sony-style iPhone prototype. The court documents also show Howarth coordinating with other members of the design team including Ive on early iPhone prototypes.
Julian Hoenig is a relatively recent addition to the design team. He joined Apple in 2010 after having spent most of his career working as an exterior designer for car companies, including Lamborghini and Audi, according to a resume on his personal website.
Rico Zorkendorfer, a German designer, is another longtime member of the Industrial Design Group whose name is mentioned on Apple patents ranging from unibody earbuds to the icon design of the iOS YouTube app.
Daniel Coster is credited on Apple patents for everything from the iPhone 4's design to the iPad's wireless keyboard.
Daniel Coster's name appears alongside Steve Jobs, Jony Ive and others from this elite group on a wide range of patents, including the iPhone 4's stainless steel design, as the well as the phone's user interface design and the wireless keyboard that is used with the iPad.
Jeremy Bataillou is another name from the group of 16 or so Apple industrial designers who are frequently listed on the company's design patents.
Duncan Kerr joined Apple's design team in 1999 after having spent a few years working at IDEO, the design consulting firm. Kerr's name appears on patents for the original iPhone's design, the design of the MacBook Air and more.
Peter Russell-Clarke is an Australian designer and another longtime member of the design group. His name is on dozens of patents, a few of which you can see here.
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