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Designer Offers Rare Insight Into Apple’s Creative Process

Designer Offers Rare Insight Into Apple’s Creative Process

Apple’s industrial design team is 16 “maniacal” individuals who spend a lot of their time brainstorming around a kitchen table. So said Apple designer Christopher Stringer as he testified yesterday in the Apple vs. Samsung patent infringement trial.


“Our role is to imagine products that don’t exist and guide them to life,” testified Stringer, who sported shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, and off-white suit with a narrow black tie.

Apple is having Stringer testify as to the beginnings of the design around the look and feel of the iPhone, which it claims Samsung copied. Stringer has his name on numerous Apple patents, among those are the design patents Apple is using against Samsung in the case.

Stringer stated that it was plain to see that Apple had been “ripped off.” When asked by whom, Stringer said by many phone makers, but “Samsung in particular.”

The company owes its reputation for beautiful design to Jonathan Ive and his group of designers, who were assembled from around the world.

Stringer said the group of designers work on all of the company’s products, and spend time every week discussing them around a kitchen table. He said that’s where the group is “most comfortable.”

Stringer says most of the team have worked side-by-side for 15 to 20 years. He describes the group as “a pretty maniacal group of people”, adding they obsess over details.

The design team doesn’t follow a straight line process from idea, to sketch, to model, to demo, according to Stringer. If a better idea comes along, the current concept will be scrapped.

A single button on one of Apple’s phones or tablets might go through 50 or more variations before ending up in the final design.

Stringer also testified that the company will go out of its way to throw off anyone who might see an early version of the design. Early versions of the iPhone and iPad had the name “iPod” on the back of the devices.

Samsung’s attorneys cross-examined Stringer, and got him to admit that Apple also looks at what its competitors are doing, ending its cross-examination by getting Stringer to admit that there was nothing wrong with examining what other companies are doing.

Stringer’s testimony is expected to be the first of many to come as the trial between the two companies continues. The trial is expected to run into late-August.


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