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Power behind the throne: Jony Ive.

Power behind the throne: Jony Ive.

Apple has briefly peeled back its cloak of secrecy to give an unprecedented look at the brains trust and processes behind its all-conquering creative design team.

The details are revealed in a 16,000 word New Yorker profile of Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice-president of design.

London-born Ive is the creative genius behind all of Apple’s product hits from the iMac in 1998 to the soon-to-be released Apple Watch.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook (left) and Jony Ive at the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook (left) and Jony Ive at the launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012. Photo: Getty Images

Ive was originally just the hardware design guy, but his new boss, Apple chief executive Tim Cook, extended his sphere of influence in 2012 to cover the look and feel of Apple’s software.

To borrow a job title from the hit TV series Game of Thrones, the appointment cemented Ive as Apple’s Hand of the King – or Hand of the Cook, to be exact – the power behind the throne who is at times even more powerful than the king.

In addition to Ive and his team of designers, writer Ian Parker was given exclusive access to Apple’s design lab, an area that’s even off limits to many Apple employees.

Sir Jonathan Ive (left) with his knighthood, and his friend Australian designer Marc Newson with his Commander of the British Empire, following a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2012.

Sir Jonathan Ive (left) with his knighthood, and his friend Australian designer Marc Newson with his Commander of the British Empire, following a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2012. Photo: Getty Images

The article confirms the “bromance” between Jobs and Ive that began almost from their first meeting in 1997, when Jobs returned from a decade-long exile to retake command of the company he co-founded 20 years earlier.

Ive recalls how they clicked at their very first meeting, even though Ive was carrying a letter of resignation in his pocket and Jobs was courting someone else for the role.

Parker suggests that relationship with Ive’s current boss, Tim Cook, while warm is a totally different dynamic.

“If Jobs and Ive had a father-son dynamic, Ive and Cook seem like respectful cousins,” Parker writes.

Here are some highlights from the article, which you can read in full here.

On Apple’s design studio and the culture of excellence

  • Apple’s instructions to its (mainly Chinese) manufacturers include “a tool’s tracking path, speed, and appropriate level of lubricant”.
  • When an Apple designer walks in to a meeting it is “like being in church when the priest walks in”, according to a former engineering intern.
  • Team members are expected to work 12 hours a day and are not permitted to discuss their work with friends.
  • To find the best designers, Apple employs three recruiters to identify job candidates.
  • Since 2000, only two designers have left the studio, one because of ill health. About one new designer a year joins the group.

Jony Ive, left, with Apple's then senior vice-president of engineering, Jon Rubinstein,with iMac personal computers in 1999.

Jony Ive, left, with Apple’s then senior vice-president of engineering, Jon Rubinstein,with iMac personal computers in 1999

  • One of the designers, Hugo Verweij, is a Dutch sound designer who was running a website selling “minimalist ringtones” before he was hired.
  • Another designer, Jody Akana, specialises in colour. Only colour.
  • The worktables in the design studio inspired the benches found in the Apple stores.
  • Apple has built a fully functional 1800 square metre cafeteria as a miniature prototype for a larger facility that is to be built in its new space-age campus.

On Australian designer Marc Newson, the Australian-born designer and close friend who joined Apple last year as a London-based employee

  • Ive said he and Newson could “incite ourselves to a sort of fever pitch” over poorly designed products that had been “developed to a schedule, to a cost” or “developed to be different, not better”.
  • The pair are car lovers – Ive owns a Bentley Mulsanne and an Aston Martin DB 4 –  who feel underwhelmed with most modern cars. “There are some shocking cars on the road,” Ive said. “One person’s car is another person’s scenery.”
  • Newson and Ive share an “economic similarity”. “Neither of us came from particularly privileged backgrounds,” Newson said. “A lot of what I’ve done has been an effort to try to have the things that I didn’t own when I was a child.”
  • Ive denied that Newson’s appointment was a way for him to plan his departure from Apple.

On the Apple Watch

  • Ive says the Apple Watch was conceived “close to Steve’s [Jobs’s] death”.
  • The Apple Watch resembles one of the watches from Marc Newson’s own Ikepod watch company, and the 1904 Cartier Santos.
  • In-store, the watches will be displayed in a glass-topped cabinet, “accessible to staff from below, via a descending, motorised flap, like the ramp at the rear of a cargo plane”.
  • The watches’ fitness achievement icons, or virtual medals, will have a “a mid-century Olympic Games” feel.

On design advice to others

  • The lightsabres in JJ Abrams’ upcoming movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens reflect Ive’s suggestions about the design. “I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty,” Ive told his interviewer.
  • Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve’s widow, has consulted Ive about spectacle frames, crockery, and the proper height of kitchen benchtops. “He’s so good on proportion and dimension,” she told The New Yorker.
  • ooo

Henry Sapiecha


Facebook is talking to Apple about crafting a version of its new mobile software for the iPhone, in a push to boost revenue from the growing number of users who access the social network on smaller screens.

After debuting the software, called Home, for Google’s Android operating system earlier this month, the operator of the world’s biggest social-networking service is speaking to Apple and Microsoft about expanding to other platforms, said Adam Mosseri, director of product at Facebook. The talks are ongoing and nothing has been finalised, he said.

Now that the majority of users access Facebook via mobile devices, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is looking for ways to keep them engaged longer and coaxing more advertisers to pay to place promotions. While Google’s Android software powered about 70 per cent of smartphones worldwide last year, Apple’s iOS operating system commanded about 21 per cent, according to Gartner.

“We’ve shown them what we’ve built and we’re just in an ongoing conversation,” Mosseri said, referring to discussions with Apple and Microsoft.

Jen Martin, a spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment. Bill Cox, a spokesman for Microsoft, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Already, Facebook and Apple have a “great relationship”, Zuckerberg said when he introduced the Home software earlier this month.

‘Active dialogue’

“We are integrated into the operating system with them,” Zuckerberg said. “We have an active dialogue to do more with them.”

On iPhones, the Home software would be tailored to what Apple prefers, Mosseri said. It could look much different to the Android version.

“It may or may not be Home,” he said. “We could also just bring some of the design values to the iOS app. That might be how it ends up. Or we could build just the lock screen. Maybe then it’s not called Home, it’s called something else.”

The new Home software is designed for newer Android handsets, including some made by Samsung and HTC. Home, which will have monthly updates, can be installed from Google Play, Google’s online app store.

While the program will not initially have advertising, Zuckerberg said promotions will be included in future updates.

“There are no ads on this yet,” Zuckerberg said. “I’m sure at some point there will be.”

Henry Sapiecha