The New Yorker has published an extensive report on Jony Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design. Many newspapers have written up articles on Ive in recent years, but this latest account by Ian Parker is by far the most detailed and (arguably) the most interesting, revealing new anecdotes and tidbits on Apple’s latest products in the process.
The story tracks how Jony arrived at Apple back in the late 90’s, how his relationship with Jobs developed over that period and how he is adapting to ‘leading’ design in post-Jobs Apple. The piece includes some new details about how the Watch project and the newest iPhones formed, as well as incorporating quotes from Tim Cook, Bob Mansfield and others.
Read on for some select excerpts from the New Yorker’s story.
The piece opens with an introduction to Ive and Apple’s secretive design studio. The piece describes how the room is dominated by work tables and backs on to a wall of CNC milling machines. Each of the tables focus on a particular element the design team is working on — naturally they were all covered in silk for the reporter’s visit. Of note, the New Yorker talks to members of Ive’s sixteen-strong design team that rarely get public attention.
“We put the product ahead of anything else,” he said. “Let’s say we’re talking about something that I’ve done that’s ugly and ill-proportioned—because, believe you me, I can pull some beauties out of the old hat. . . .
“I had one last week,” Akana said.
“Which one?” he asked.
“The packaging thing,” she said.
“That’s true,” Ive said, laughing. “It was so bad.”
Akana had proposed that an Ultrasuede cloth inside the box for a gold version of the Apple Watch should be an orangey-brown. Ive had objected with comic hyperbole, comparing it to the carpeting in a dismal student apartment.
The candidness of his criticisms comes from Jobs. The article describes when Ive and Jobs first met, where Steve criticised Jony for vainness — for caring what people thought of him. This leads to one of the most prescient excerpts in the piece, about what Ive misses now since Jobs died.
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.”)
To his right was a silver sedan with a jutting lower lip. Ive said, quietly, “For example.” As the disgraced car fell behind, I asked Ive to critique its design: “It is baffling, isn’t it? It’s just nothing, isn’t it? It’s just insipid.” He declined to name the model, muttering, “I don’t know, I don’t want to offend.” (Toyota Echo.)
Ive also disapproves of SVP Operations Jeff Williams, who drives a Toyata Camry: “Ive’s verdict, according to Williams, is “Oh, God.””
On the iPhone 6, the report indicates that design discussions around larger phones (that eventually culminated in the 6 and 6 Plus) began in late 2011. Before then, the company had seemingly modelled an enlarged version of the iPhone 4, which Ive had dismissed as “clunky”. The team made prototypes with screen sizes from 4 to over 6 inches.
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.”)
The story dedicates many words to the creation of Apple Watch. As previously documented, the story confirms that a watch project began life in late 2011 within Apple, “conceived “close to Steve’s death,” Ive said.”.