A peek inside Apple's top-secret design facility

  • Chicago (IL) - Documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit is one of the lucky few allowed to set foot inside Apple's most sacred design facility, one that's authorized to only a handful of Apple employees. It's the place where Apple's "design czar" Jonathan Ive and his team dream up new gadgets. The director interviewed Ive for his film and has posted a rare photo of the interior of that facility.

    Apple's design studio is made of shiny aluminum and filled with state-of-the-art prototyping equipment that young, laid-back designers get to use in creating incredibly accurate and varied prototypes. Plus, they get to enjoy the music coming out from a massive sound system that's worth more than most people's homes.

    Hustwit was shown a rare honor by Apple. The director was allowed to film Ive (Apple's design guru ) inside his design studio - which is part of the company's Cupertino headquarters. The facility is off limits to all but a few Apple employees because that's where Ive and his team design the top-secret "next-gen" gadgets that most employees don't even know about. Hustwit was allowed to interview Ive as part of his upcoming documentary about the industrial design titled Objectified.

    The director posted a still photo of Jonathan Ive online ahead of the premiere. As shown below in this article, the photo offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse inside Ive's workplace where iMac, Macbook Air, iPod, iPhone and other Apple smash hits were designed. "We did a follow-up interview with Jony Ive at Apple in California last week, and enjoyed the opportunity of filming inside Apple's design facilities," the director wrote on Objectified's website. "I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, except everything was made of shiny aluminum instead of candy." he wrote. 

    Objectified also features other individuals and companies that matter in today's industrial design. These include BMW's Chris Bangle and New York Time Magazine's Rob Walker. The movie will premier at the South by Southwest Film Festival scheduled to run between March 13 and 21.Hustwit is also known for Helvetica, a previous documentary about graphic design and typography which premiered in 2007. He's also made music documentaries about electronic music pioneer Robert Moog and the band Wilco.

    Salaries for members of Ive's small, close-knit industrial design team at Apple are rumored to start around $200,000 - which is considered 50% above the industry average. Sources describe the design studio as a large premise equipped with a massive sound system that pumps out the music. As can be seen in a still photo bellow this article, most of the space is occupied by top-notch prototyping equipment that costs millions. Those who know a thing or two about how Ive's mind works are not surprised at all.

    To get the form factor and all its details right, Ive and his team iterate through incredible numbers of prototypes which might radically differ between not only themselves, but the final product. Other changes are so small that you and I could hardly notice. But these are not the "foam prototypes" you'd find in other companies. Instead, Apple's designers use expensive CNC-controlled prototyping equipment and real materials to build prototypes which closely match the fit and finish of what will become the final shipping product.

    Ive and his team also spend part of their time in China to work with contractors and tool makers. They all know that manufacturing new Apple gadgets requires the most sophisticated retooling of factories, and a push against the technological envelope for the manufacturing process. Despite extreme demands, manufacturers battle for Apple contracts - and not just for money, but also for the privilege of working for the company that leads the industrial design.

    Associates describe Jonathan Ive as the closest colleague of CEO Steve Jobs, and one of Jobs' possible successors. Jobs discovered Ive when he returned to Apple from exile in July 1997. The young designer had already carved a name for himself at Apple, having crafted Newton PDA and he helped design the first PowerBook.

    When Jobs returned, Ive almost fell victim of the layoffs and budgets cuts which ensued. But then, the 29-years old Britton could hardly escape Jobs' impeccable eye for a talent. Since 1996, Jobs has been relying on Ive not only for a physical form factor, but also all aspects of each product - including user interfaces, manufacturing processes, packaging, how features should work, etc.

    "One of the hallmarks of the team I think is this sense of looking to be wrong," Ive said at Radical Craft. He described Apple's design process as "the inquisitiveness, the sense of exploration," adding that "it's about being excited to be wrong - because then you've discovered something new."



    Apple's design chief Jonathan Ive filmed inside Apple's design facilities last week by the documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit for his new documentary,
    State-of-the-art prototyping equipment worth millions can be seen in the background, while a massive sound system is said to pump out music. Most Apple employees are strictly prohibited from getting even remotely near this design sanctuary.  Source: