Apple’s Chief Design Officer Jony Ive was in conversation with the Editor-in-Chief of Wallpaper magazine Tony Chambers on Apple Pencil, and spoke at length about the design of the device as well as Apple’s design philosophy in general.
I had declared before that the Pencil was going to take the world by storm with its innovative UI and multi-functionality design along with the iPad Pro. At the core of the design philosophy for Pencil, Jony says, was the ability to use a device to paint and draw:
What we found is that there’s clearly a group of people that would value an instrument that would enable then to paint or draw in ways that you just can’t with your finger. And I suspect that this isn’t a small group of people. I don’t think it’s confined to those of us who went to art school.
For some time after the Pencil’s announcement the world was up in arms quoting Steve Jobs on introducing a so-called “stylus”. Apple was fundamentally violating a design principle because Steve Jobs famously considered using a stylus as a sign of product “failure”. In reality the Pencil augments the finger as Jony Ive describes it vividly in this quote:
the Pencil is for making marks, and the finger is a fundamental point of interface for everything within the operating system. And those are two very different activities with two very different goals.
Suggesting that the Pencil is more than just a stylus and not replacing the finger interaction which Steve Jobs implied. The Pencil is in fact a successful merger of human dexterity with innovative technology. In which the Pencil not only identifies hand pressure but also the tilt angle on the screen to offer a seamless screen interaction. We often discuss Apple being an organization in the forefront of using design-thinking methods for developing innovative products:
We do this a lot when we are working on things like the trackpad or new keyboard on the MacBook. To develop those sorts of devices requires an incredible amount of observation and measurement and it means that you need to ask the right questions and know what to focus on. This is part of the value of being a design team that’s been together for many years. We’ve been working on these problems for 20-plus years, so it’s an interesting area. And I think we are gaining experience, we are learning.
Jony also brought up Apple’s design method which does not involve Focus Groups which is a well-known fact again. Here’s his take on whether the feedback from his young kids proved useful in the design of the Pencil:
Apple does not do Focus Groups – So far, anecdotally – you know we don’t do focus groups – but anecdotally, certainly from what I’ve seen, with my children and friends’ children, they are captivated.
And finally, he left a valuable tip for aspiring designers to inculcate design culture in their work:
The design team at Apple uses sketchbooks and do lot of sketching – Yes, we all do. The whole team use sketchbooks. I think it’s a mixture of drawing either by yourself or when you’re with people flitting between conversation and drawing.