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Monday, July 30, 2012, 03:51 pm PT (06:51 pm ET)

Apple focuses on quality products not money, says designer Jonathan Ive

In a speech at the British Embassy's Creative Summit on Monday, Apple's Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Sir Jonathan Ive gave an inside look at the company's design process and philosophy, two assets many have credited as being key to the iPhone maker's great success.

Ive compared and contrasted a near-bankrupt Apple circa the 90s to the company after co-founder Steve Jobs retook the reins in 1997, saying that "you learn a lot about vital corporations through non-vital corporations," reports Wired UK.

The design guru noted Jobs was successful in turning Apple around where others had failed because his approach focused on the products rather than financial minutiae.

"We are really pleased with our revenues but our goal isn't to make money," Ive said of Apple. "It sounds a little flippant, but it's the truth. Our goal and what makes us excited is to make great products. If we are successful people will like them and if we are operationally competent, we will make money."

Taking a page out of legendary Braun designer Dieter Rams, who was a major influence on Ive's work, the Apple SCP said "I refute that design is important. Design is a prerequisite. Good design — innovation — is really hard." Rams alluded to the same ethos in many quotes and writings.

Indeed, much of Apple's success has been attributed to its functionally simple and clean designs that a U.K. judge recently referred to as "cool."

Speaking as to whether mass-produced products can be beautiful, Ive said "[y]ou can make one chair carelessly, thoughtlessly, that is valueless. Or you can make a phone [that will eventually go on to be mass produced] and invest so many years of care and have so many people so driven to make the very best phone way beyond any sort of functional imperative that there is incredible value."

Jonathan Ive


Designing is no easy task, however, and Apple's design chief said being continuously innovative is a struggle.

"Really great design is hard. Good is the enemy of great," Ive said. "Competent design is not too much of a stretch. But if you are trying to do something new, you have challenges on so many axes."

Ive, who joined Apple in 1992 and became the company's lead designer in 1997, was recently quoted as saying the projects he's currently working on are "the most important and the best work" his team has ever done.