Consumer Products

Strong and stable leadership in a changing world

By Max Middleton - Last updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Photo credit:Marcus Dawes

Photo credit: Marcus Dawes

Ok, ok, so maybe the title is deliberately chosen to attract your attention – and maybe your indignation – but a particular change in leadership at the Royal College of Art in London, UK is especially interesting to me.

Sir Jony Ive has been appointed as Chancellor of the RCA, succeeding Sir James Dyson.

Although Sir Jonathan tends to stay away from publicity. This North London lad had a large role in turning around Apple’s fortunes since he joined in 1996, responsible for the design of the iMac, iPod and iPhone.

Although Apple can attract denigration, the main criticism I hear is of its fans seemingly slavish loyalty to its brand and mastery of combining breakthrough technology with intuitive design (both physical and digital). Simplified: that means products that their customers are proud to own and….just work. That’s the type of negative feedback that most companies would love to have.

There is a reason that clients still come to us asking for the “iPhone for their market” and that young designers still have to be asked in their interviews for their “favourite design, but please don’t say Apple”.

What is most exciting for me in Sir Ive’s appointment is his attitude to the relationship between design, technology and manufacturing, which is very similar to our beliefs at Cambridge Consultants. In a talk I attended (years ago) he spoke with Chris Grayling (another hero), spending a large part extolling the wonders of how the iPhone is made. He called it a wonderful explosion in reverse. In an interview on BBC Radio 4, “Today” program on 25th May, he talked more, stating that:

“Design can be useful commercially, in terms of actually driving areas of focus for technology and can really establish an agenda, and establish goals, that can make – what can sometimes be – disconnected investigations, or area focus for technology”.

This is very similar to how design works at Cambridge Consultants. We develop ground-breaking technologies for our international clients. It is our designers’ job to unite the technology to the target customers, users and purchasers. In that way, we ensure that the products, systems and services don’t just do what they are engineered to do. They have commercial success in the market because people understand them, connect with them and can use them intuitively.

Design is much more than what a product looks like. I’m personally glad that the new Chancellor of the RCA will continue to champion this into the future.


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AuthorMax Middleton


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