The Influence of Jony Ive
Ian Parker, in a profile piece for the New Yorker on Apple’s Senior VP of Design, Jony Ive:
Ive’s dominance wasn’t immediate. Michael Ive recalled a conversation he had with his son in 2001: “ ‘It’ll have a thousand songs, Dad.’ I said, ‘Who wants a thousand songs?’ He said, ‘You’ll see.’ ” Tony Fadell, a former Apple engineer who can take much of the credit for the iPod’s functionality, was recently quoted by Fast Company as saying, “We gave it to Jony to skin it.” That is, Ive’s contribution was to combine, as elegantly as possible, elements decided largely by engineers and others: a battery, a disk drive, an L.C.D. screen, a track wheel. Fadell went on to found Nest, which was later bought by Google; he recently took charge of Google Glass. His phrase may have been strategically irreverent—“We’ve never skinned anything,” Tim Cook told me in response—but it contained at least a partial truth. Ive gave the music player an irresistible white-and-silver form, causing a generation of designers to endure clients asking for the “iPod version” of this or that. (Richard Seymour, in London, recalled a meeting about the iPod of moisturizers.) But the industrial-design studio was not yet the company’s central workshop.
What strikes me is that the decisions of one man impact hundreds of millions of people every day. But he’s just one man. That is incredible influence.
This is an incredibly well-written piece. It’s long, but it’s worth reading the entire thing.