The New Yorker today published an extensive profile of Apple design chief Jony Ive. The piece goes through a wide-range of topics, giving us a thorough overview of the Apple SVP of Design’s role at Apple. The article covers his deep relationship with Steve Jobs, development of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, some Apple Watch tidbits, and more.
Here are some interesting excerpts from the piece…
On the ten-minute plus Apple Watch reveal video:
The new film did not show Ive’s face, but he had narrated it, and largely directed and edited it. This work was done in Apple’s design studio, which has a core team of nineteen industrial designers whose public recognition—even as their work has become unavoidable—has rarely extended beyond mentions in patent filings and affidavits. In a company with inexhaustible marketing resources, Ive’s authorship of the film suggested fastidiousness about the seductive display of his work. But it was also an assertion of ownership that Jobs himself might have appreciated. Apple’s designers have long had an influence in the company which is barely imaginable to most designers elsewhere.
Behind the scenes at the Apple Watch launch event:
But now, in the courtyard of multimillionaires, Ive had a bare wrist, and it would remain so for a few more hours. He spoke of soon arriving at “this rarest of times—when we’re done, and we get to talk about it.” He added, “It’s pretty strange. Where we’re standing, right now, we haven’t talked about it, and we can stand here in a couple of hours, and millions and millions of people will know.” He went on, “You go from something that you feel very protective of, and you feel great ownership of, and suddenly it’s not yours anymore, and it’s everybody else’s. And it’s a very—I think the word ‘traumatic’ is probably overstated, but it’s a really significant point in time.” He smiled. “These are very poignant points in time. It’s so digital. It’s so binary.”
On Ive’s relationship with Steve Jobs:
Jobs visited the design studio and, as Ive recalled it, said, “Fuck, you’ve not been very effective, have you?” This was a partial compliment. Jobs could see that the studio’s work had value, even if Ive could be faulted for not communicating its worth to the company. During the visit, Ive said, Jobs “became more and more confident, and got really excited about our ability to work together.” That day, according to Ive, they started collaborating on what became the iMac. Soon afterward, Apple launched its “Think Different” campaign, and Ive took it as a reminder of the importance of “not being apologetic, not defining a way of being in response to what Dell just did.” He went on, “My intuition’s good, but my ability to articulate what I feel was not very good—and remains not very good, frustratingly. And that’s what’s hard, with Steve not being here now.” (At Jobs’s memorial, Ive called him “my closest and my most loyal friend.”)
Discussions around a larger iPhone apparently started in 2011 with designs then starting as a larger iPhone 4 (which was dismissed as clunky):
A few years ago, Ive and his colleagues assessed each prototype size of the future iPhone 6 by carrying them around for days. “The first one we really felt good about was a 5.7,” he recalled. “And then, sleeping on it, and coming back to it, it was just ‘Ah, that’s way too big.’ And then 5.6 still seems too big.” (As Cook described that process, “Jony didn’t pull out of his butt the 4.7 and the 5.5.”)
I asked Ive about the slightly protruding camera lens that prevents the iPhone 6 from resting comfortably on its back. Ive referred to that decision—without which the phone would be slightly thicker—as “a really very pragmatic optimization.” One had to guess at the drama behind the phrase. “And, yeah . . .” he said.
I would advise you to take a couple of hours of your time, sit down and read the entire piece as it goes through more than most can imagine.