Jony Ive has talked about the design process behind the Apple Watch in a new interview with Vogue. He revealed that Apple has been working on the Watch for three years, and discussed the life-changing moment that he first met Steve Jobs.
Five years later, a disenchanted Ive was about to leave when Jobs returned to reboot the then-floundering Apple, which happened, by most analyses, when Jobs enabled Ive. By Ive’s account, the two hit it off immediately. “It was literally the meeting showing him what we’d worked on,” Ive says, “and we just clicked.” Ive talks about feeling a little apart, like Jobs. “When you feel that the way you interpret the world is fairly idiosyncratic, you can feel somewhat ostracized and lonely”—big laugh here—“and I think that we both perceived the world in the same way.”
Designing the Apple Watch
Since Jobs’ return, Ive has led the design teams for Apple’s most iconic products: the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad have all been his designs. With the Apple Watch, Ive was faced with a more difficult prospect – designing a product that people would be happy to wear on their wrists all day.
“He describes the trajectory of clocks to watches: from a public clock in a Bavarian square to timepieces owned by royalty, to military chronometers, to the watch’s arrival, only at the beginning of the twentieth century, on the wrist. “It’s fascinating how people struggled with wearing this incredibly powerful technology personally.” The cell phone, of course, killed the watch to some extent. Now he wants to reset the balance.”
Making the Apple Watch intimate
But it’s not all about design for Ive. To convince people to wear the Watch, the software had to complement the hardware perfectly, and offer something that the iPhone and iPad just can’t provide – intimacy.
“You know how very often technology tends to inhibit rather than enable more nuanced, subtle communication?” he asks. This is the question that haunts the son of a craftsman: Is he making tools that improve the world or shut people down? “We spent a lot of time working on this special mechanism inside, combined with the built-in speaker” —he demonstrates on his wrist. You can select a chosen person, also wearing the watch, and transmit your pulse to them. “You feel this very gentle tap,” he says, “and you can feel my heartbeat. This is a very big deal, I think. It’s being able to communicate in a very gentle way.”