Apple's most recent rendition of iPad, an ergonomically optimized version of the erstwhile tablet, underscores the Cupertino Company's focus on product design.
The list of breathtaking designs delivered by Apple, which include the translucent Mac computers, iPod, iPhone and iPad, bear their genesis to the alchemy between Apple's star CEO Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive, Senior Vice President, Industrial Design.
Prior to the launch of iPad 2, Cult of Mac reported that Ive and Apple board of directors were at loggerheads over Ive's decision to move to England, as he and his wife want to educate their twins in U.K.
Jonathan Ive was described by BBC as the Armani of Apple, a tag which befits the designer who was named 'Designer of the Year' by the Design Museum London in 2003 and awarded the title 'Royal Designer for Industry' by The Royal Society of Arts. Touted to be one of the best British designers, his Apple designs are featured in the permanent collections of museums worldwide including MOMA in New York and the Pompidou in Paris.
Ive, who is listed in The Smartest people in tech, compiled by Fortune, was born in Essex in 1967, and completed his Bachelor of Arts from Newcastle Polytechnique. He joined Apple in 1992 and has led the design team since 1996.
Here are some quotes and comments which give a glimpse into Jonathan Ive's design world:
In 2009, Bloomberg quoted Ray Riley, a former Apple designer who then ran Nike's Advanced Innvovation Div: Apple is a cult, and Apple's design team is an even more intense version of a cult. The article cited that most of Apple products were dreamed while eating pizza in the team's design studio by a dozen or so members of the famed design team.
The design team led by Ive, who is British, has members from different nationalities, like New Zealander Danny Coster, Italian Daniele De Iuliis, and German Rico Zörkendörfer. Ive's friend since 1990, British fashion designer Paul Smith said about the design team: Its good old-fashioned camaraderie -- everyone with the same aim, no egos involved.
Speaking at a conference called Radical Craft in 2006, Ive encapsulated the team's design philosophy in the following words: One of the hallmarks of the team I think is this sense of looking to be wrong; it's the inquisitiveness, the sense of exploration. It's about being excited to be wrong because then you've discovered something new.
Ive is known to be extremely shy and is rarely seen as blowing his own trumpet. According to Time, even when Ive is pressed to own up to some of his key accomplishments prior to joining Apple he would say: Anything that I did before the iMac seems irrelevant. He also said the presence of focus groups in a company is a sign of creative bankruptcy.
Apple designs are known for their minimalism and obviousness. In an interview with Newsweek in 2004 Ive said about the iPod: From early on we wanted a product that would seem so natural and so inevitable and so simple you almost wouldn't think of it as having been designed. Speaking of his penchant for simplicity in design Ive told BBC that he loves the obviousness of everything.
While currently his desire to move back to UK has resulted in an impasse between Ive and Apple's board of directors, Ive told BBC in 2002 that he did not regret his decision to move to US. He said: It's difficult to do something radically new, unless you are at the heart of a company.
In an interview with Fast Company ten years before the iPod and iPhone became household names, Ive defined his design philosophy as simplicity, accessibility, honesty, and enjoyment. Robert Brunner, who, as Apple's previous design chief, hired Ive at the company, speaking about Ive's understanding of the alchemy between design and manufacturing said: He showed us his work, and I was amazed. He had taken a phone and come up with a radical design, but it was so refined it could have been manufactured right then.
Brunner also said Apple goes all the way to overhaul its manufacturing process to accommodate new designs unlike other companies which design products which can be manufactured using the existing infrastructure. Bloomberg stated that in order to understand how to create a plastic shell look exciting for the translucent Mac, Ive and the design team visited a candy factory to capture the nuances of jelly bean making. The team is touted to have spent months with Asian OEM's to perfect the complex process required to churn out the translucent iMacs. The design team also vied for internal electronics to be redesigned, to make sure they were aesthetically pleasing when looked through the shell. Also Ive is known to invest more of the design outlay into buying state-of-the-art prototyping equipment rather than on having a large team.
Ive is known to be extremely private and reclusive, which raises the question as to whether he understands the users enough. In an interview with The Independent Ive dispelled such concerns as he said: We don't have to take this great intuitive leap to understand the mythical concerns of our users, because we are the users.
Finally, speaking with The Independent on what ultimately motivates him, Ive said: My goal is simply to try to make products that really are meaningful to people. Ultimately there is something motivating and inspiring in seeing someone using an Apple product and enjoying an Apple product. Steve Jobs convinced former Apple CEO John Sculley to leave Pepsi by asking Sculley as to whether he wanted to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or come with me and change the world? The same imperative wouldn't have worked with Ive. I'm not driven by making a cultural impact, that's just a consequence of taking a remarkably powerful technology and making it relevant, he told The Independent in 2008: