Lessons From Jony Ive: A Masterclass in Product Design | Product World
Lessons from Jony Ive

Lessons From Jony Ive: A Masterclass in Product Design

Apple’s 2000s comeback is a masterclass in product design, filled with lessons from Jony Ive, the legendary designer with a vital role in various Apple designs. These designs included the iMac, Power Mac G4 Cube, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and even aspects of the Apple iOS for mobile.

Ives was also instrumental in Apple’s major architectural projects, such as Apple Park, new corporate headquarters of Apple Inc., located in California, USA, as well as general layout designs for Apple Stores.

Here, we take a look at Ive’s designs and methodologies, and how to use them effectively for maximum impact.


Lessons From Jony Ive: A Masterclass in Product Design | Product World


Top Design Lessons From Jony Ive

Ive’s focus was always on minimalism + simplicity. He married that with the idea that “design takes depth”… form and materials require complete attention throughout the design process. This shaped Apple’s design language and was an integral part of their 1997 comeback.

Ive also had an emphasis on:

  • Designers being involved in the physical making process.

“Until you’ve actually pushed metal around and done it yourself, you don’t understand”

  • Getting to prototype fast. 

“Abstract ideas are great. Concrete objects are better.”

The results?


iMac G3 (1998)

When the G3 debuted the buzz was deafening! Finally, a computer that wasn’t just a boring grey box. 

Not only was this computer colorful, fun… cool. It had an operating system that was user friendly. The computer became a universal status symbol.

The sleek plastic design allowed users to see behind the curtain. No floppy disc drive, the addition of USB ports… Suddenly it was hip to own a PC. 

Steve Jobs famously said:

“It looks like it’s from another planet. A good planet. A planet with better designers.”

iPod (2001)

It wasn’t the first mp3 player on the market, but the simple and sleek design captured the hearts of users. 

The simple scroll wheel made browsing songs titles, artists or album titles a cinch. iPod virtually ended the portable CD player industry.

iPod Mini (2004)

When the iPod Mini came along it not only added color to the design, but with a more affordable price tag it put iPods in nearly every pocket in America. The mini also introduced Apple’s famous click wheel.

The differences in material and feel are massive.

Lessons From Jony Ive: A Masterclass in Product Design | Product World

iMac G4 (2001)

A flat desktop computer?

Ive managed to cram all of the computer’s innards into the dome-shaped base and the screen itself was suspended on an arm that could move around. Ive moved away from color bringing the iMac to a sleeker white-and-silver scheme.

The iPod and iMac Showcase Visual Chapters

If you start with a bright or large design… Transform that into a sleek, minimal design next. Same is true in revenue; if you launch in monotone, add color and material changes later. The product will FEEL next-generation.

In 2004 Apple created the blueprint for every future iMac with their G5 design. This all-in-one computer took the focus away from bright colors or other-worldly designs and made it about the very thing you spend your time staring at while on the computer: the display.



In 2009, Ive was famously quoted saying: 

“There’s not a detail there that doesn’t need to be there. There are no visual interruptions, distractions. There’s just no other noise. Everything is about the display.”

This is the outcome of a relentless focus on customer experience.

There is a constant interplay in Ive’s innovations between:

  • Form as a vehicle for “attention” — becoming a status symbol or talking point for a lunch
  • Form as a vehicle for “function”– pairing all the aesthetics back to focus on user experience.

Brands take note!


iPhone (2007)

No device has changed the tech industry quite like the iPhone did. It revolutionized the way we think of cell phones (Sorry, Blackberry!).

Instead of a screen as part of the phone, the screen became the whole phone.

Lessons From Jony Ive: A Masterclass in Product Design | Product World

iPad (2010)

The iPad was met with lukewarm reception… critics thought it was just a giant iPhone.

Ive famously said of this,

“When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works it sort of becomes magical — and that’s exactly what the iPad is.”

The tablet category exploded.

Apple Watch (2014)

With its high price tag and short battery life, this was another product that most didn’t believe they needed. 

Without the signature face, crown, swappable bands and incredible overall brand ID, the wearable device wouldn’t have caught the same adoption.



Jony Ive’s designs aren’t all just about business; he has a few fun, non-Apple designs, too.

The ring is made of a single chunk of diamonds



Top Design Tips for Your Own Products

  • What technology or machinery would you never think could feel “cool”? There is opportunity there.
  • Can you disrupt your own aesthetic category by radically changing pallete or form-factor between generations?
  • Can your product also double as a status symbol?  
  • If inherently subtle, could it become a brand statement if it was loud?
  • Can you hold a design standard so high people would buy it just for how it looks?


I hope this inspires you to think differently! 

– Oren


Every week I break down ideas, strategies, and inspiration for building products and brands on my Twitter Account. Follow along…



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