The man behind the design

26Sep07

BusinessWeek takes a look at the man who, according to Peter Burrows, “melds Apple’s unique creativity with the nuts-and-bolts required to make beautiful things.”

Jonathan Ive’s journey in becoming Apple’s Senior Vice-President for Industrial Design started as a the desire to understand the mystery of things worked. He enrolled in a design program at Newcastle Polytechnic in 1985 and by 1992 he joined Apple after working for a British design company. While in the UK he felt frustrated that the companies there didn’t appreciate his designs or ideas. Four years later, Ive became Apple’s design chief as the company was in turmoil. Cost cutting proved disastrous to the design of Apple’s computers. In 1997, Steve Jobs ousted Gil Amelio and became interim CEO. Ive’s prepared his resumé as he was waiting for the axe to fall on him as Jobs went into a frenzy of cost cutting and firings. In the midst of looking for his design wizard all over the globe, Jobs realized that he had his man in Apple’s backyard all along. The Jobs-Ive synergy has produced the the first iMacs, the development of which included visiting a jelly bean factory, and the iPod, an icon all unto itself.

According to Apple’s senior VP of industrial design, the one of the hallmark of the design team is the “sense of looking to be wrong… It’s about being excited to be wrong because then you’ve discovered something new.” Ive emphasizes that the design coming out of Cupertino is a team effort and the design team also work closely with engineers, marketers and manufacturers.

Ive is not only accomplished when it comes to designing beautiful products but also the process on how to make those products. Manufacturing companies like to work with Apple despite the company’s penchant for being a fierce negotiator on cost. Apple allows these companies to be able to look forward into the future of design.

Burrows ends with:

So long as Ive has that close-knit team and that hard-driving boss, the Steve and Jony Show should continue to roll along just fine.

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