Image via Marcus Dawes / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

On Monday, the Cambridge Union Society announced that Apple’s chief design officer, Jony Ive, had been presented the Stephen Hawking Fellowship award, which is bestowed on those who demonstrate a flair in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field for the benevolence of the public.

As a recipient of the prize, Ive delivered a lecture at the institute’s Union hall. According to Forbes tech reporter David Phelan, who was present at the ceremony, he spoke for under an hour, but “it was golden from start to finish.”

Check out some golden nuggets of wisdom from Ive below, and read more about what he had delivered at his speech over at Forbes.

“Designers create tools.”

“We designers create tools,” Ive declared. These include products that aid the more minute details of day-to-day life like living, sitting and eating, as well as more immersive experiences that encourage communication and “support learning, creating, and mending.”

On the fragility of ideas

“…Ideas are fragile,” Ive surmised. “If they were resolved, if they were robust, they wouldn’t be ideas any more. They would be shipping products, a finished album, a completed building.”

Interestingly, Apple’s design lead divulged that he feels an “enormous” sense of delight whenever the faintest of concepts snowball into incredible products.

“I’ve always taken an enormous delight when the most tentative thought, often from the quietest voice, evolves into significant and substantial products.”

On the times Apple nearly gave up

Ive detailed that ideas tend to start out vague because they might lack the technology to enable them. For Apple, specifically, it “took years to catch up with the ideas.”

“And, I have to say, the ideas posed problems and defined challenges but in that process we came close to giving up on a number of occasions.” Prototype after prototype, some of Apple’s iterations “described more of the problems than the opportunities…” he said.

Ive added that closely collaborating with large groups of experts across disciplines is central to Apple’s product delivery, and is “without doubt… one of my favorite aspects of being part of the team at Apple.”

Of course, working in larger groups comes with its challenges. “Opinions often become confused with ideas,” Ive said.

“[They] tend to focus on what is measurable [and] tangible… That’s why there’s an obsession with attributes like size and weight and speed, capacity, schedule or price.”

“But there often follows the dangerous assumption: we talk about these attributes because we think they’re important.”

On how he ignites that creative spark

Ive fondly related that despite working for Apple for nearly three decades, he was still “completely in awe [and] completely enchanted by the creative process.” Why? Because the work flow at Apple is unpredictable.

“I love the unpredictability and I love the surprise [of it],” Ive described of the creative process, adding that it is “fabulously terrifying and so uncertain” to him.

“I love that on Monday, there’s nothing. There is no idea… The room is silent. There’s certainly not a drawing.… On Monday, there is nothing, but on Wednesday, there is. No matter how partial, how tentative. Now, the problem is: which Wednesday?”

On overcoming the fear of breaking the status quo

Ive acknowledged that while humans are innately curious, it would take a larger environment for ideas to “become a decision,” since bigger groups often “gravitate towards what’s known.”

“I’m surprised [at] how hard I often need to work to remain open and curious,” he divulged.

However, ideas stem from curiosity, “a place where wanting to discover and explore” outweighs what is known and comfortable.

“I really have come to believe that common vision and shared purpose is just not enough,” Ive asserted. “But when we genuinely look at a problem, it’s an opportunity to learn together [and] we discover something together. We know that learning in community is powerful.”

Being in a group feeds momentum, Ive described, and in turn breeds a sense of familiarity and acceptance.

“And I’ve come to learn that I think a drive and desire to learn makes doing something new just a little less scary.”

You can read more of Ive’s insights over at Forbes.

[via Forbes, cover image via Marcus Dawes / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)]