Apple's Former Director Of Design Reveals The Most Important Thing He Learned While Working At Apple


Robert BrunnerFlickr/Tech CrunchRobert Brunner speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt.

"When I die ... my tombstone is going to say, 'The guy who hired Jonathan Ive,'" industrial designer Robert Brunner joked in 2007.


Brunner is the founder of the design firm Ammunition, which has designed hardware and software for Beats, Adobe, Polaroid, and Square.

Brunner is best known, however, for his work at Apple, where he was the director of industrial design from 1989 to 1997.

Complimentary Tech Event
Transform talent with learning that works
Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.Discover how business leaders are strategizing around building talent capabilities and empowering employee transformation.Know More

During his time with Apple, Brunner was tasked with building Apple's design team, which would eventually lead to him hiring Jony Ive.

"That was a while ago, of course, but it was really important and formational for me," Brunner recently told Business Insider. "I remember thinking 'If any company in the world could have an amazing design organization, it would be Apple, right?' And at that point it didn't have one. So that was the task I undertook, to build a really great design organization within the company."


Brunner says his time at Apple taught him about the importance of immersing yourself within the company you're designing for, which Brunner says is the only way to truly have an impact.

"It was a fantastic experience, and what it really taught me-and what you don't learn when you're a hired gun-is the depth that you need to be involved in the business to make things happen," Brunner said. "It was actually very formational to me to be very involved in a lot of things, in addition to the traditional aspects to industrial design; helping to shape products and bring them to market, and do that through a society and a culture with thousands and thousands of very smart people."

It's a lesson that Brunner says he has taken with him to his new design firm, Ammunition.

Ammunition Beats SoloAmmunition Design GroupAmmunition partnered with Beats to design the new Beats Studio headphones.

"That was a very important thing that really leads to a lot of what we're doing now at Ammunition and how we work with companies, getting very embedded with them, understanding their culture, and working with their leadership to help them make things happen," Brunner said. "Because ultimately that's our job. In addition to doing great design, it's our job to actually make things happen, to get products out in the world, and to get them out done well. Those are all things I learned at Apple."