Building Winning Products

A Well Articulated Problem

Jony Ive knows a bit about design. In a recent interview, I was struck by his comments on the role a defined problem has in his creative process.

“I think that is a huge part, a fundamental part, of my job. When you’re talking about the future, and as a designer that’s where my head is, then it’s extremely rare that I feel that I’m working in response to an articulated problem.”

The product and design community emphasizes a deep focus on problem as the critical step in product success, yet it appears not to be pivotal to Sir Jony.

"I could count the occasions that I’ve done that in the last 25 years on the fingers of one hand. It’s extremely rare that what we do is a response to somebody articulating a problem. By definition, you didn’t know it was a problem until you were aware of a better way of doing it. The tremendous challenge here is that when you have been solving a problem a certain way for a long time, so many things convince you that, of course, that’s the best way of doing it, not least habit.”

It does make you wonder, if he doesn’t start with a problem, where does he begin? Wherever it is, it’s working.