Apple, at least under Jobs’ regime, almost never or only so rarely grants interviews, so when it gave Sunday Times the probably once in a lifetime chance to talk to Jonathan Ive, not even the sudden and almost inexplicable downpour in California will stop it. Thanks to that, we are able to get some insight into the thoughts of the man who designed some of the world’s most iconic products.
Jonathan Ive, or Jony to those close to him, is almost everything his close friend and former boss, the late Steve Jobs, is not. Some would describe his appearance unremarkable, his demeanor easygoing and gentle, and his modesty genuine. But Ive, who started working for Apple in 1992, and Jobs, who returned to the company and 1996, almost instantly clicked. And it was all thanks to their eye for detail and their desire for perfection.
Apple’s design aesthetic, which has helped set it apart from competing products, permeates throughout the whole product. This is perhaps best exemplified when Ive worked for months just to get the shape of the stand for the desktop iMac, something that most users will probably not give a fuss about, as long as it works, of course. And that is precisely the problem when designing such things. Things that are usually not seen are the ones that are usually thought of as obvious and natural, something designers might take for granted.
That said, Ive thinks himself more of a maker and not much of a designer, he tells the Times, a paradigm that shows through his creative process and workflow. He first thinks about how a particular product or part functions before how it looks. And he does that by sometimes taking apart other things or seeking knowledge in places you’d probably look last, like confectionery manufacturers in designing the original iMac, or metalworkers for the Titanium PowerBook.
It is that intense devotion to the design of even the most inconspicuous aspects of a product that drives the usually soft-spoken Ive to mince no words for those that dare to simply “copy” Apple’s products. He calls it nothing short of theft, not of corporate secrets or even ideas, but of thousands and thousands of hours of struggle poured into making a winning design.
There are some, however, who are worried that Apple has reached the end of its winning streak and without Jobs the company is fated to fall from grace. Ive, of course, thinks otherwise and believes that there is still so much to learn and still so much to do and that this is actually a remarkable time for remarkable products. Whether that means smartwatches or Apple TV sets, Ive won’t say. And Apple, as much or as little it has changed this past three years, is definitely not talking.