Each of Designlab’s UX Academy intakes is named after someone that inspires us. December’s cohort takes the name of Sir Jony Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple.
9 Reasons Jony Ive Inspires Us
He helped transform Apple into the most prominent exponent of Dieter Rams’ 10 principles of good design. In the documentary Objectified, Rams said: “Today you find only a few companies that take design seriously, as I see it. And at the moment that is [...] Apple.”
He models and prototypes ideas himself. Speaking about his father, a silversmith and college teacher, Ive recalls: “His Christmas gift to me would be one day of his time in his college workshop, during the Christmas break when no one else was there, helping me make whatever I dreamed up.” That hands-on instinct has never left him: his work in the design group at Apple has involved lots of rapid prototyping using foam and plastic models.
He knows what commitment means. Ive has been working at Apple since 1992, surviving major changes of management, business fortunes, and creative culture.
He donates one-off designs to charity auctions. One of these was a unique Leica M, which sold for $1.8m at Sotheby’s. The proceeds went to RED, a charity that fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
He understands that a shared purpose creates the best work. In an interview with Time Magazine in 2014, Ive said: “Apple is imperfect, like every large collection of people. But we have a rare quality. There is this almost pre-verbal, instinctive understanding about what we do, why we do it. We share the same values.”
He once designed a pen specifically for fiddling with. The Zebra TX2’s innovations included grips above the nib, and a ball and clip for the user to play with. It went into production and was especially popular in Japan.
He is behind many of the most iconic tech designs of the past 25 years. The iMac G3, iBook, iPod, iPhone, iPad, all have one thing in common: Jony Ive’s instinct to take a technology, and transform it into something usable, beautiful, and enjoyable.
He begins each project by asking not “what is it”, but “what should it be?” Ive puts the user’s needs at the heart of Apple’s design process. He worked closely with Steve Jobs to foster uncompromising product integrity, as well as harmonisation between its aesthetic qualities as a physical product, and the UX design of its software.
He was terrified he would fail at Apple. Talking to the Design Museum, he said: “I still remember Apple describing this fantastic opportunity and being so nervous that I would mess it all up.” Turns out he did alright.
For us, Jony Ive has combined his raw design talent with exceptional professional commitment and uncompromising product execution. We hope that students of the Ive cohort will put the user at the centre of their design process, aiming to produce work that is not only different, but also better.
To find out more about Jony Ive, head over to the Design Museum, which has put together a detailed timeline and Q+A. Next month, we’ll profile Nicolas Jenson, the fifteenth century French engraver, printer and type designer.