A couple months ago Business Week published an article about a talk "The Craft of Design" given by Jonathan Ive at the Radical Draft conference.
I found this paragraph about team size and passion spot on.
"He spoke passionately about his small team and how they work together. He talked about focusing on only what is important and limiting the number of projects. He spoke about having a deep understanding of how a product is made: its materials, its tooling, its purpose. Mostly, he focused on the need to care deeply about the work."
Designers that care deeply about what they do always create the best work. It is that passion that drives them to understand the technology and wakes them up in the middle of the night with stokes of inspiration. Great design is hard work--it takes commitment and dedication. It takes the willingness to do fewer things but do those things really well. We constantly face this battle on projects--everyone wants something simple until it means cutting their favorite feature. Good ideas are plentiful--the hard part is scaling back the project to a point where you are able to nail scenarios. The only way to develop the right feature list is through clear customer scenarios and a crisp vision.
In a different interview, Jonathan talks about team work.
“Teamwork is the only way – not out of principle, but out of necessity,” he reasons. “You can’t develop these ideas and take them to market by yourself.” Several members of the team that he praises as “ridiculously smart” have been together for over twelve years, resulting in intuitive, almost pre-verbal communication over the smallest of details.
I like his perspective.