Now that the U.S. patent infringement trial against Samsung Electronics gets underway this week, we’re getting another glimpse behind the curtain of the Apple design process. 17-year Apple design veteran Christopher Stringer described the process as a group of 16 “maniacal” individuals from around the world brainstorming at a kitchen table. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t follow a linear process: “We are always doubting. We are always questioning.”
The first day of court testimony is worth the quick read at Reuters:
The world’s most valuable technology corporation on Tuesday allowed a rare glimpse into a zealously guarded internal hardware design process that has produced some of the world’s most celebrated consumer electronics.
In a high-profile U.S. patent infringement trial against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd that began this week, it called 17-year Apple design veteran Christopher Stringer as its first witness.
Stringer looked every inch the designer with his shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white suit with a narrow black tie.
“Our role is to imagine products that don’t exist and guide them to life,” he told the jury.
Apple’s products — particularly the seminal iPhone — are held in high regard throughout the industry. The gadget that revolutionized the smartphone industry is prominently displayed in the avant-garde San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
The company, which is accusing its South Korean arch-foe of stealing iPhone and iPad design and features, owes a debt to creative guru Jonathan Ive and his cadre of designers assembled from Britain, Australia, the United States, Japan, Germany over more than a decade.
Stringer said Apple’s group of 15 to 16 industrial designers — headed by the British-born and recently knighted Ive — work on all of the company’s products and dedicate time every week to discuss them, mostly at the kitchen table.
That’s where the group is “most comfortable,” he said.
Ive’s team leads works out of a large, open studio on Apple’s campus in Cupertino, California, with music blaring through a giant sound system and access strictly limited to a small portion of employees, according to a 2006 profile of Ive in Business Week.
Most of the team have worked side-by-side for 15 to 20 years, said Stringer, who has “hundreds” of design patents to his name.
“We have been together for an awfully long time,” Stringer said. “We are a pretty maniacal group of people. We obsess over details.”
Even though Apple doesn’t always get it right, obsessing over details is key. And the Apple design studio? Off limits to almost everyone who works at Apple’s Cupertino campus.