Sir Jonathan Paul Ive is a British designer and the Chief design officer (CDO) of Apple Inc. He oversees the Apple Industrial Design Group and also provides leadership and direction for Human Interface software teams across the company. Ive has designed many of Apple’s products, including the MacBook Pro,iMac, MacBook Air, Mac mini, iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini, Apple Watchand iOS.
Ive was born in 1967 in Chingford, Essex, but raised in Staffordshire, where he went to Walton High School, a large comprehensive in Stafford. He says his father, a teacher, was a significant influence on his decision to pursue design. “My father was a very good craftsman. He made furniture, he made silverware and he had an incredible gift in terms of how you can make something yourself.”
“I discovered at an early age that all I’ve ever wanted to do is design,”
Ive added. “I feel enormously fortunate that I continue to be able to design and make products with a truly remarkable group of people here at Apple.”
Ive studied Industrial Design at Newcastle Polytechnic, which is now Northumbria University. Works from his student portfolio, such as a hearing aid design, were exhibited at the Design Museum in London.
Ive had been interested in drawing and making anything he could think of.
The first phone designed by Jony Ive
Since he was a teenager, he was unsure of what area to specialize in after leaving Newcastle. After meeting with various design experts, he was drawn to product design. He was given employment at London design agency Roberts Weaver group, his college sponsor. Ive graduated with a first class Bachelor of Arts degree in 1989.
After his graduation, he started a design studio, Tangerine, with a colleague. The company designed a diverse array of products, such as microwave ovens, toilets, drills and toothbrushes.
One of their other clients was software giant Apple. Ive always appreciated Apple and he had been acting in a consultancy role for it while creating the initial PowerBook designs at Tangerine.
Ive worked at Apple in California since 1992, when the company was at its lowest ebb, having removed founder Steve Jobs and fighting a patent battle with Microsoft. He was promoted when Steve Jobs] returned five years later and since then he has been in charge of its designs. Ive’s first design assignment was the iMac which helped pave the way for many other designs such as the iPod and eventually the iPhone and the iPad. By creating the iPod he unleashed a product that profoundly altered the music industry, while the iPhone is doing the same to the mobile phone industry. The most recent product from his team, the iPad, is setting the standard for an entirely new category of computer.
On 26 May 2015, Apple announced that Ive was promoted to the new role of Chief Design Officer. Ive is only the third C-level executive at Apple along with CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri.
“He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me.”
-Steve Jobs speaking about Jonathan Ive.
Steve Jobs considered Ive to be his “spiritual partner at Apple”, while Fortune magazine stated that Apple design motifs Ive’s designs have “set the course not just for Apple but for design more broadly”. He also serves as the narrator for most of Apple’s product reveal videos.
As of early 2014, Ive is listed as a patent holder on over 730 U.S. design and utility patents, as well as many more related patents around the world. His products have won innumerable awards, including the prestigious Industrial Design Excellence Award in the USA, and the London Design Museum’s Designer of the Year award.
“Designing and developing anything of consequence is incredibly challenging,” says Ive. “Our goal is to try to bring a calm and simplicity to incredibly complex problems so that you’re not aware really of the solution, you’re not aware of how hard the problem was that was eventually solved.”
Ive states that he hopes that his best work is yet to emerge and that he prefers to be identified as a maker of products, rather than a designer.
In trying to understand Ive, it’s important to realize the level of sincerity and passion with which he holds his beliefs. These are not empty words; this is what he has devoted his life to. He says he tends to measure the last 20 years of his life by the problems he and his team were trying to solve at the time.
Its a long way from a toilet laboratory in Chigwell, north London to the heart of Silicon Valley, California. But in eight years, Jonathan Ive has covered this distance to establish himself as one of the world’s greatest designers.
On a closing note, here are a few tit bits about Jony Ive published by the New Yorker while profiling Jony Ive and an advertisement of a book written by Leander Kahney on Jony Ive.
- Designs that Ive hates: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak’s steampunk watch, round smartwatches like the LG Watch R, the Toyota Echo (which he describes as ‘insipid’), Google Glass, and Apple senior VP of operations Jeff Williams’ old Toyota Camry.
- Although Ive’s design style is known mostly for its restraint, his friends and colleagues describe his true style as a lot more blingy.
- Ive hated Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography of Steve Jobs, for supposed inaccuracies. “My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he said.
- What’s on Ive’s bookshelves? Books such as 100 Superlative Rolex Watchesand a biography of designer Joe Columbo, who designed the Kartell storage carts. He is also watching Moon Machines, an old Discovery Channel series about the Apollo Space Program.