Every single Apple product in the last two decades and a bit more, which you may have admired vocally or silently, has had the undeniable imprint of a legend. Sir Jonathan Ive, or Jony Ive, has been the creative mind behind all of the iconic hardware that Apple has made. The iPhone, the iPads, the iMacs, the MacBooks, the Apple Watch, you name it. in fact, he also had a hand in the design of the Apple Park ‘spaceship’ campus and was also responsible for the uniformity and consistency that every Apple Store you may walk into, anywhere in the world, exhibits.
Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated, from 1998’s groundbreaking iMac to the iPhone and the unprecedented ambition of Apple Park, where recently he has been putting so much of his energy and care,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer. Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple’s history,” said Ive.
Sir Ive started at Apple in September 1992, as part of the design division. Five years later, he was appointed the senior vice president of industrial design, coinciding with the return of Steve Jobs to the company. This was at a time when it is widely believed Ive wanted to quit following the lack of commercial success for second generation Newton and the MessagePad. Legend has it that Ive’s reporting manager at the time, Jon Rubenstein, convinced Ive that Apple was "going to make history". Rubenstein, a computer scientist and electrical engineer, eventually went on to work for Palm, HP and also was on the board of Qualcomm. Jobs wanted to put Apple back on the map. At this point, Ive started work on the iMac. “A computer can absolutely be sexy,” he said at Macworld conference in San Francisco back in 1999. And so it has been. Where we are today with the absolutely gorgeous iMac Pro, the very unique looking Mac Pro, the slick iMac and the unmatched brilliance of the MacBook line-up, is all because of how Sir Jonathan Ive.
The iPod was one of the undeniable successes for the new mission. The iPod, the iPod Classic, the iPod Shuffle, the iPod Nano and the iPod Touch, they set about making the activity of listening to music a serious business for consumers. It is perhaps an even greater achievement that none of the rivals, including the Microsoft Zune, even came close to replicating the success of the iPod.
You may thank Sir Ive, willingly or otherwise, for the smartphone that you use today. Irrespective of whether it is an iPhone or not, it was the iPhone design evolution over the years which has shaped pretty much every smartphone you buy and use today. The touchscreen, the form factor, the minimalism with hardware keys and buttons and the user experience—after all, hasn’t almost every other phone maker pretty much attempted to make an “iPhone beater” at some point of time or the other? And failed miserably at that. It is undeniable that phones follow the iPhone design for inspiration, with their own added perspective later.
A milestone in the journey was perhaps In 2012, when Sir Ive was made in charge of all of Apple’s Human Interface projects. This meant he was leading the hardware as well as the software side of thing. This is something Apple has immense pride in—the close integration of its hardware and software, for a user experience that no one else can offer. Soon, the world got the iOS 7 for the iPhone, which was till then the biggest visual redesign to the iPhone’s software in a decade. That inspiration is still very visible in iOS and the upcoming iPadOS. Could Sir Ive see the future? Clearly.
If we are to specifically look at what happened with the hardware, there is indeed a lot that has changed. The MacBooks switched from plastics to aluminum and became slimmer consistently. The iPhones continued to set the benchmark every year, in terms of the user experience. With every single detail being looked at closely, and nothing left untouched. The iMacs were redesigned significantly, and also saw the Magic Mouse design that lives even today. Then there was the first iPad back in 2010, which set pulses racing. And what we have now is an iPad arsenal that has four distinct product lines. And these are just some examples.
The good thing is, Sir Ive’s influence on Apple, will remain. “Apple will continue to benefit from Jony’s talents by working directly with him on exclusive projects, and through the ongoing work of the brilliant and passionate design team he has built. After so many years working closely together, I’m happy that our relationship continues to evolve and I look forward to working with Jony long into the future,” says Cook.
The end of an era. Perhaps only for another era to begin.