Skip to navigationSkip to content

Here’s an “extraordinarily rare” peek inside Apple’s secretive design lab

Apple's Phil Schiller with the iPhone 6
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Almost this big.
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

“We don’t like people in this room. Period,” joked Apple chief design officer Jony Ive about the grey blankets covering the tables in Apple’s mythic and highly secretive design studio.

On Sunday, Dec. 20, Ive lifted the veil on Apple’s design spaces and work processes for 60 Minutes’s Charlie Rose in the company’s Cupertino, California headquarters. Following his first interview with Ive in 2013, Rose got more of a studio tour this time and the results reinforce what we’ve known about Apple’s design all along: a religious obsession with perfection.

While Apple’s new glorious Death-Star like headquarters is being built, its current open plan design studio appears monastically modest. In fact, it looks much like an Apple Store—simple, uncluttered, equipped with those signature maple desks where Ive’s core team of 22 designers work side-by-side.

CBS/60 Minutes

Ive explained that zeroing in on a product’s “emotional context” is a big part of Apple’s development process—investing lots of time experimenting with materials, surfaces, textures, colors, shapes, to arrive at the right tactile experience. He showed the 10 prototypes for the iPhone 6 and 6s that had been made with their in-house machining tools, before landing on the two sizes that “felt right.”

The tour also vivified the extent of Apple’s well-known drive for making “insanely great” products, as Steve Jobs used to put it—from finding the perfect red for the Apple Watch’s wristband color to engineering the right battery for its super thin laptops. “All of these things in aggregate, if we manage to get it right, you sort of sense that it’s an authentic, really thoughtfully-conceived object,” said Ive.

CBS/60 Minutes

This obsession for detail also animates Apple’s “Camera Lab,” where 800 engineers and specialists are solely dedicated on perfecting the iPhone’s sophisticated built-in camera, a tiny object with 200 parts. Team lead, Graham Townsend explained that for every image—every selfie—taken, 24 billion operations are at play.

The full video of the rarely-seen view inside Apple, including Rose’s revelatory interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, can be viewed here.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.