Sir Jony Ive has designed some of Apple’s most iconic products over the years and was a key influence on the firm’s simplistic design.
The 52-year-old London native has spent the better part of his adult life at Apple and was close to its co-founder, Steve Jobs.
The departure of the “thoughtful” Sir Jonathan for his own company will be a loss for Apple, which is already facing challenges.
From the “ground-breaking” iMac to Apple’s ambitious new Apple Park campus, he has helped to shape one of the world’s most successful companies.
“Jony is a singular figure in the design world and his role in Apple’s revival cannot be overstated,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive.
Sir Jonathan studied design at Newcastle Polytechnic and after graduating, worked at a London-based design consultancy that had Apple among its clients. He began working at Apple in 1992.
He went on to became head of the company’s design team at a time when Apple was in poor financial health and cutting jobs.
His design of the iMac in 1998 and the iPod in 2001 helped to trigger a dramatic turnaround in the firm’s fortunes. Other landmark designs that followed included the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010.
“From the coloured iMacs and the different generations of Apple products; the computer line, the laptop line, the iPhone and every generation of iPhone since then, the iPad generations, the transformers, the chargers, the connectors – all of those things came out of Jony’s team,” says Tim Kobe, the chief executive of Eight Inc and the designer of the first four generations of Apple retail stores.
More recently, he has been responsible for Apple Park, the company’s new 175-acre campus in California.
The campus, which opened in 2017, features a 2.8 million-sq-ft main building with the world’s largest panels of curved glass.
Sir Jonathan was very close to Steve Jobs, the technology pioneer and co-founder of Apple who died in 2011.
Mr Kobe says that, other than Mr Jobs’ assistant and maybe the public relations team, Sir Jonathan was “probably the closest person” to Mr Jobs in the company.
“They were very close both during work time and outside of that.”
One time, Mr Kobe says, they were in a place with sunflowers and the structure of the flower became the inspiration for the design of one of the iMacs.
Sir Jonathan was a key part of Apple’s design ethos of focusing on the essential aspects of a product.
“Steve [Jobs] described design as what the product does for people. Much of the design ethos that Apple grew into was about… what’s essential. So not having more than you need to do the job of what the product is [intended for],” Mr Kobe says.
“Steve, of course, had a huge role in that, as did most of Jony’s team and other consultants who were involved, but Jony led that ethos and the definition of the Apple design language that we know today.”
Sir Jonathan spoke about the importance of simplicity during several press interviews over the years.
“As a designer, what I think you are trying to do is solve extremely complex problems but make that resolution very simple. You’re not dragging people through the victories – or otherwise – that you’ve been working on,” Sir Jonathan said in an interview with the Financial Times. “I’m really proud of all of those victories that are unseen.”
Sir Jonathan is now a multi-award winning designer and was knighted in 2013 “for services to design and enterprise”.
Mr Kobe says: “Jony is not the typical big ego designer. He is brilliant but a quiet, modest, thoughtful and reasoned person.”
Jony had a extraordinary relationship with his tight-knit design team that is validated by the fact the team has worked together for so many years, he says.
“As a leader, he pushed everyone very very hard, but he also respected the team’s opinions and was able to bring out the best in people.”