Jonathan Ive (1967- ) is a British industrial designer at Apple Computers. He designed the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone, helping to change Apple’s fortunes. He designed the computer that I write this on. He should be a household name, an icon of our age, but few know who he is.
He does not design the computer parts themselves – the chips and programs and so on – but how they are put together into something that people can use.
The best example of this is the iPod. It was hardly the first music player or even MP3 player. But not only has the iPod taken over that market, it has made that market: it made music players a part of everyday life. And that is because of Ive’s design and the way he thinks about design.
Ive is driven by two ideas:
- Make it simpler: Take out anything that does not absolutely have to be there, in how it looks and in how it works. In designing the iPod he was able to get it down to five buttons and a scroll wheel. What is more, from the way it looks you do not even know about four of the buttons at first. That is no accident.
- Make it better: Make it not only better – simpler and cooler looking – than what is currently being sold but make it better than itself: do not stop, keep going, keep pushing. That is why when the iPod first appeared in the marketplace it was not just somewhat better than other players, it was on a whole other level.
You also need the courage throw away designs that you feel deep down are no good and start all over again.
One of the main things that have kept computers and things made out of computers, like music players and mobile phones, from being more widely accepted is that they are not simple: there are too many choices of what to do next, some of them leading to bad outcomes!
The fault lies not in computers or in people but in the lack of good design in between. Most companies do not give it enough attention.
So Ive’s aim is not only to make things simpler to use but to make them more inviting by the way they look. He does that partly by giving them a clean look and by his use of colour.
Ive grew up in Chingford in London, the son of a silversmith. He studied design at Northumbria University and worked for Tangerine, a London design company. One of their customers was Apple. He felt he could have more say in Apple’s designs if he worked for them, so in 1992 he joined Apple. By 1998 he had become the head of design.
Ive likes to dress in black. He drives an Aston Martin, often works 70 hours a week and makes about $2,000,000 a year (150,000 crowns). He is worth every penny.
– Abagond, 2009, 2016.