12 things we learned from the New Yorker’s profile of Jony Ive


The world's most famous designer, Jony Ive. Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

In what may be the longest magazine feature yet dedicated to Apple’s industrial design guru, the New Yorker has just published a sprawling 16,000 word profile of Jony Ive — taking readers from his early meetings with Steve Jobs up to the present day.

It’s jam-packed with fascinating tidbits about Ive, his secretive design studio, and Apple’s past and future. While I’d thoroughly recommend reading the whole article, here are the details that really leaped out:

Ive gets some unusual gifts.

Some of Ive’s colleagues gave him a seven-inch Playmobil likeness of himself for Christmas. It wears sunglasses and carries an off-white Valextra briefcase. A photo of its face is Ive’s iPhone lock screen image.

What would an Apple car look like? Photo: Josh Baré/DeviantArt CC
Given the rumors of an Apple Car, it’s no surprise to hear Ive is a car nut. Photo: Josh Baré/DeviantArt CC

Ive is a car nut.

Possibly not a new revelation, but interesting given the recent reports of an Apple Car. “There are some shocking cars on the road,” Ive says in the article. “One person’s car is another person’s scenery.” Seeing a car he dislikes on the road he says, “It is baffling, isn’t it? It’s just nothing, isn’t it? It’s just insipid.” (The car in question is a Toyota Echo.)

The Apple Watch was Ive’s baby.

“I asked Jeff Williams, the senior vice-president, if the Apple Watch seemed more purely Ive’s than previous company products,” the New Yorker’s reporter writes. “After a silence of twenty-five seconds, during which Apple made fifty thousand dollars in profit, he said, ‘Yes.'” The article also acknowledges that Ive B.F.F. Marc Newson worked on the project from the start, and his name will appear on the patents.

The iPhone 6 Plus could have been even bigger.

Ive thought about making it 5.7-inches, but then concluded that was too big. He eventually settled on 5.5-inches.

You can take the industrial designer out of Britain, but you can't take Britain out of the industrial designer. Photo: Banksy
You can take the industrial designer out of Britain, but you can’t take Britain out of the industrial designer. Photo: Banksy

Ive is still British at heart.

He has a Banksy picture of the Queen with a chimpanzee’s face in his office, while the design studio constantly plays “Euro douchepop.”

Ive has an impressive Rolodex of celebrity friends.

Do the names Chris Martin, Stephen Fry, J.J. Abrams, Yo-Yo Ma and Bono mean anything to you? They certainly do to Jony.

Ive came up with some ideas for the new Star Wars movie.

No details on exactly what they are, but they relate to the lightsabers in the new movies. “I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty,” Ive said, noting a redesigned lightsaber could be “more analog and more primitive, and I think, in that way, somehow more ominous.”

Given his friendship with J.J. Abrams, he’s certainly got the right person’s ear to get his ideas listened to.

Walter Isaacson isn't in Jony Ive's good books.
Walter Isaacson isn’t in Jony Ive’s good books.

Ive hated the Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography.

Ive says he hasn’t read it all, but has read enough to dislike the famous Jobs biography for its apparent inaccuracies. “My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he says, contemptuously.

Ive knows how to fly in style.

After Steve Jobs’ death, Ive bought his former boss’ twenty-seat Gulfstream GV.

Ive and Jobs got on like a house on-fire.

On his first meeting with Steve: “I can’t really remember that happening really ever before, meeting somebody when it’s just like that. It was the most bizarre thing, where we were both perhaps a little — a little bit odd. We weren’t used to clicking.” At Jobs’ memorial, Ive called him “my closest and my most loyal friend.”

…Which isn’t to say that Jobs couldn’t be cutting.

“Fuck, you’ve not been very effective, have you?” was Steve Jobs’ conclusion when he first saw Ive’s design studio at Apple, after rejoining the company. He also accused Ive of being vain, because Ive cared too much what people thought of him.

Ive is f*cking motivated.

He has a rather profane motivational poster in his office, created by Brian Buirge and Jason Bacher at the studio “Good Fucking Design Advice.”

It reads: “Believe in your f*cking self. Stay up all f*cking night. Work outside of your f*cking habits. Know when to f*cking speak up. F*cking collaborate. Don’t f*cking procrastinate. Get over your f*cking self. Keep f*cking learning. Form follows f*cking function. A computer is a Lite-Brite for bad f*cking ideas. Find f*cking inspiration everywhere. F*cking network. Educate your f*cking client. Trust your f*cking gut. Ask for f*cking help. Make it f*cking sustainable. Question f*cking everything. Have a f*cking concept. Learn to take some f*cking criticism. Make me f*cking care. Use f*cking spell check. Do your f*cking research. Sketch more f*cking ideas. The problem contains the f*cking solution. Think about all the f*cking possibilities.”

Few people could argue Ive hasn’t taken that advice on board.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.