Following the recent launch of iPhone 6 and iWatch Yahoo’s Tech Columnist Rob Walker took a tilt at Jony Ive’s video presentations.
Now I know they’re high profile (and much mimicked) but we should be applauding Ive’s love of engineering and the way he underlines the skills of the Apple team, not belittling it. If only there were more such engineers around, particularly here in Ive’s home country the UK.
What Jonathan underlines is that behind these products lie innovations, at many levels, which the vast majority of our consumer society just take for granted.
It’s done in a way that is low on tech speak, makes you look more closely at the product, and leads you to realise they result from the collective effort of dozens of creative engineers. Yes engineering is very creative!
Those who do have experience of electronics manufacturing will appreciate the sophistication of processes exploiting technology that hardly existed just a few years ago. Had you suggested to a mass market laptop or mobile manufacturer in 2005 that they machine housings from solid aluminium you would have been laughed out of court. Now, through thinking differently, the Apple team works to exceptionally fine tolerances which give us the ultra slim phones and computers we love.
What these videos demonstrate too is that much of manufacturing today is not undertaken in dingy workshops, but on clean computer-controlled production lines where the human input is more to do with innovative software and mechanization, than getting your hands dirty.
When I offered Jony his first job, albeit many years ago, what impressed me was not only his design skills but also his deep fascination for how things were made. If you don’t strive to understand the engineering processes you will never be in a position to not only think differently, but more importantly, to actually achieve that difference. That’s a valuable lesson for today’s young designers.
So what lessons can be learnt by the UK engineering sector that is so short of young talent – a problem that Apple does not suffer.
Well firstly if you are to encourage the next generation into engineering strive to present what you do, and why you do it, in a language which is easily understood and devoid of corporate jargon. This applies whether the business makes products, components or large infrastructure projects. You must grab the attention of parents, teachers, as well as the teenagers who are in the throes of deciding which avenues to pursue.
Secondly demonstrate overtly the value of your people – why would I want to work in an environment where I’m not valued? Most technology achievements are brought about by the collective work of bright minds and it is that social interaction itself which is a very attractive part of many careers.
Thirdly think differently about how you communicate using the amazing power of the web.