Businessweek have a great selection of in-depth articles about Apple’s Senior Vice-President for Industrial Design, Jonathan Ive and they give a real insight into his famously secretive design process.
It seems less that Ive is secretive for the sake of it, or even for the sake of rumours getting out about products, but more that he is intensely focussed on the process of design and doesn’t want the distractions.
I think there is probably another aspect which is about trust. Ive and his small team (there are only about a dozen people in it) work through many, many iterations of any design. For that process to work in a group you have to really pour your heart and soul into the process and trust and respect the critiques of those you are working with so that you can evolve the design further. That means you need to trust that the person telling you your ‘perfect’ design (perhaps the 20th iteration) still needs work isn’t out to get you. I imagine it has taken some time to get the mix right and it is probably quite fragile. Innovation isn’t easy - you need people who trust you to go out on a limb, but also others you trust to reign you back in or push you further.
In terms of understanding the importance of the emotional and playful aspect of products, I very much enjoyed this snippet:
During an internship with design consultancy Roberts Weaver Group, he created a pen that had a ball and clip mechanism on top, for no purpose other than to give the owner something to fiddle with. “It immediately became the owner’s prize possession, something you always wanted to play with,” recalls Grinyer, a Roberts Weaver staffer at the time. “We began to call it ‘having Jony-ness,’ an extra something that would tap into the product’s underlying emotion.”