As the contractual link between Sir Jony Ive and Apple Inc is finally severed, it puts an end to three decades of collaboration. Ive and Apple were one of the great industrial design partnerships of the modern era, the driving force behind what became the world’s first $1 trillion company (and also the first $2,000 and $3,000 company billions of dollars).
After Ive joined Apple in 1992, his promotion to head of the design teams in 1996 was timed by chance. Not only did this coincide with the founding of a pioneering design magazine called Wallpaper*, but it was just before the start of Steve Jobs’ second and most important tenure at the company he co-founded in 1976 and he left in 1985. I joined the San Francisco-based company straight out of Tangerine, a London-based design consultancy. Tangerine began consulting for Apple in the early 1990s, working on “Project Juggernaut,” the initial design development for what would become the PowerBook. Working alongside Martin Darbyshire and Clive Grinyer, 20-year-old Ive came up with a tablet computer design unlike anything on the market.
Apple had released its decoys. Some have since speculated that the Juggernaut project was little more than a fishing exercise to attract the British designer, initiated by Apple’s industrial design director Robert Brunner (who had met Ive when the latter was student). Prompted by his colleagues at Tangerine, Ive eventually jumped ship and took over from Brunner as head of the company’s in-house design department.
Wallpaper* had its first audience with newly promoted Ive in issue #3, when Andrea Coddington and photographer Matt Hranek traveled to Cupertino to meet Ive, 29, dressed in black, sporting a goatee and marveling at influences that included rave flyers, underground music and classic Jaguars. The occasion was the launch of the eMate, a short-lived clamshell laptop with a touchscreen and the Newton operating system. A few months into our story, CEO Gilbert Amelio was out and Jobs was back in charge.
Ive and Jobs quickly developed a close working relationship, valuing both nonconformity and the desire to do things differently, fostered and reinforced by the ability to turn technology into totemic objects of desire. The cult of Apple was born. In October 2006, when Wallpaper* featured Ive in our ’40 under 40′ feature, we were already hailing him as ‘the most important British industrial designer of all time’ – ‘…imagine no iPods, no iMacs, no iBook? we mourned.
The first iPhone, launched in 2007. Image: Apple
Then came the iPhone. In December 2010, Sophie Lovell interviewed Ive, alongside a moody portrayal of Jason Schmidt and a wavering tour of highly desirable Apple products, including the candy-colored iPod Nano and relatively new iPad, pictured by Matthew Donaldson. Ive and Jobs – at this point gravely ill and conspicuously absent from the profile – were creating entire categories and reshaping vast swaths of the cultural landscape.
I have rarely spoken of his influences, but one name has shone. The work of legendary German industrial designer Dieter Rams is often cited as a precursor to many of Ive’s most rigorous and minimal design statements. Indeed, when Lovell came to write the acclaimed monograph on designer Braun’s work, Dieter Rams: as little design as possibleIve provided the introduction.
Perhaps Jobs’ death in 2011 was a watershed moment for Ive’s time at Apple. Certainly, he was beginning to allow himself to look beyond the standard boundaries of consumer technology. In 2015, the newly created partnership between Ive (now Sir Jonathan Ive) and Marc Newson took the top spot in our 200th Power List issue.
I saw a kindred spirit in the Australian designer and apparently brought him into Apple’s fold to check him out on the new Apple Watch. We also speculated that car geek Newson (a passion Ive shares) was working on the popular Apple Car. Seven years later, and the Titan project, as the car program is called, is still shrouded in rumors.
A year later, in October 2016, we crowned Sir Jonathan as one of our global game changers, once again returning to California the following December to explore the endless curves of one of his most exciting projects. important and most important, Apple’s new 2.8 million square feet. Headquarters in Cupertino. Designed by Foster + Partners, with Ive closely involved in nearly every aspect of form, layout and interior, Apple Park opened in April 2017 and marks the pinnacle of the designer’s time with the company. .
The staircase of the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple headquarters, photographed by Mark Mahaney for the December 2017 issue of Wallpaper
For Wallpaper*, it also marked the arrival of one of our most coveted limited edition covers, which saw our logo rendered in Apple’s original spectrum colors and left the space usually reserved for cover illustrations.
Like all things Apple, the Circular HQ was designed and created in great secrecy, before being unveiled to the world as a fully formed and realized thing. It’s a strategy that dates back to Jobs’ early days, when he sought to dispel Apple’s reputation for quirky experimentation and devices that tended to suffer from the difficulties of growing audiences. To counter this, design and engineering have been fervently locked down, reinforcing the feeling of near-miraculous leaps in technology with the much-hyped arrival of each new device. “The way we work is understated,” Ive told Wallpaper’s Nick Compton in 2017. “We’re obviously different in that, and it’s a big part of who we are.” He was talking about the design team, a tightly knit group of professionals who have many years of shared experience and an intuitive sense of collaboration.
In fact, the company was so forward-thinking that when it came to compiling the heavy photographic monograph Designed by Apple in California, I realized that the design studio just didn’t have many of his designs. “A lot of the stuff you see, we actually had to go out and buy,” he told then-Wallpaper editor Tony Chambers in 2016. It’s just not an area that we’ve really invested a lot of time or energy in, so we’ve started building an archive of physical products.
In June 2019, Ive announced he was leaving his role as chief designer at Apple and creating a new company, LoveFrom, which also includes longtime collaborator Newson. LoveFrom started out with Apple as its primary client (with a non-compete clause to prevent competitors from accessing Ive’s skills), and rumor has it that the pair remained close to Project Titan. Perhaps the final severance of Ive’s ties means another shift in focus for the concept car, but with that contract officially over, LoveFrom is now free to work for whoever it chooses.
Technical design operates on a skewed schedule, with studios typically working on products that are two or three years away from market. Ive’s step back in 2019 likely means his hand won’t be on any of Apple’s next-gen products anymore. Either way, the signs are that Apple design is taking a more democratic approach to design authorship, aware of the enormous marketing power and name recognition I’ve brought to the company, but also the issues persistent attribution of massively complex designs to creative processes. of one person.
The first iPad, launched in 2010. Image: Apple
When we met design team leads Evans Hankey and Alan Dye at Apple Park in 2021, Ive’s spirit was still very much in the studio. Whatever Apple does next, the values and philosophy it brought to the company will endure, and its name will be indelibly associated with some of the most influential technologies ever made.
Old habits die hard and LoveFrom’s list of clients and projects remains discreet and secret. The company is certainly working with Ferrari and Airbnb – about which we don’t know – and created the elaborate Terra Carta seal, an award given to companies with a pioneering approach to sustainable business.
This month Wallpaper* provided another exclusive, bringing together Sir Jony and HRH Prince Charles for the magazine’s August 2022 issue, to discuss the Terra Carta Design Lab, an educational offshoot of the awards which rewards students who bring an important contribution to this vital area. Ive is nearing the end of a term as Chancellor of the Royal College of Art in London, and it’s clear he considers the commitment to making and crafting to be just as important as the design process itself. same.
Along with his portfolio, Sir Jony Ive will come under scrutiny in everything he does next. Like all tech giants, Apple balances its environmental and social responsibilities with a deep respect for the bottom line. Under Ive’s design leadership, the company has made great strides in areas such as reducing packaging and increasing product recyclability. Considering the magnitude of the challenges facing the world today, perhaps we should be grateful that this lively and caring spirit is now free to turn to different aspects of the world of product design. §
AirPods, launched in 2016. Image: Apple