Apple’s Jony Ive Seeks Product Inspiration In Unlikely Places, Heads A Team Of Just 15

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Apple’s design guru Jony Ive sat down with John Aldridge, for Time/The Sunday Times for a lengthy interview and profile, and while the article doesn’t really expose any secrets of the longstanding icon of consumer product creation, it does reveal some oh the particulars of how he does his job.

The knighted industrial designer works with what many might find a surprisingly small team – just about 15 in total – on creating Apple’s next generation of revolutionary products. The small group is tightly knit, too, as Ive tells the Times that he’s worked with most of them for between 15 and 20 years, or since around the introduction of the original iPod. The group consists of designers from Britain, the U.S., Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and Ive says that the benefit of them having worked together for so long is that “[t]he personal issues of ego have long since faded.”

Ive’s inspiration also comes from unlikely sources; he traveled to a small community in northern Japan to witness first-hand metalwork with thin materials to design the first all-aluminum laptop, and he worked with candy makers to create the original iMac’s colorful case design. So understandably Ive is not pleased when others copy his ideas. “It’s theft” he says in the interview, making no bones about how he views others using Apple as a sort of reference model for their own device designs.

The rest of the interview doesn’t really reveal too much that isn’t known; he demurs when asked about an iWatch, calling the process of rumor/denial a “chess game,” and says that if he feared Apple was done its days of innovation he’d simply quit and start designing things for his friends instead. The question left unanswered is whether Apple can produce another category busting, innovative gadget along the lines of the iPod, iPhone or iPad, and whether that gadget is on the plain, heavy wooden table in Ive’s design studio at Apple as we speak.