Jony Ive was almost fired by Steve Jobs


"Will design for food." Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

Steve Jobs planned to boot Jony Ive out of Apple the very first time he met him, according to an explosive new revelation from the forthcoming biography Becoming Steve Jobs.

“He came over to the studio, I think, essentially to fire me,” Ive told the book’s authors, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, in an interview.

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The reason for the possible firing was nothing personal, but rather the fact that Jobs had started talking with Hartmut Esslinger, the founder of Frog Design, who had previously worked at Apple and NeXT, about giving him his old job back.

Fast Company claims that Esslinger was the designer of the original Mac, although that isn’t actually correct (that would have been Jerry Manock). Instead, the German-born Esslinger was the creator of the “Snow White” design language used for Apple products during the 1980s, beginning with the Apple IIc. No doubt endearing him to Jobs was the fact that Esslinger broke his contract with Apple to follow Jobs to NeXT, where he worked on the NeXT Computer’s instantly recognizable pitch-black magnesium cube form factor.

Since Jobs’ return to Apple meant bringing aboard a lot of his former NeXT colleagues, it makes sense that he would have considered ditching Ive, who joined the company in 1992, during Jobs’ wilderness years. Not mentioned in the book excerpt is the fact that Jobs also offered Ive’s design job to Richard Sapper, who designed IBM’s ThinkPad, only to be turned down because Sapper didn’t want to work for a “tiny, tiny company.”

The possibility of a dismissal wasn’t lost on Ive. As revealed in a recent New Yorker profile, Ive carried a resignation letter with him for his first meeting with Jobs, during which the returning Apple co-founder told him, “Fuck, you’ve not been very effective, have you?”

As everyone knows, Ive not only wound up staying at Apple, but formed an incredibly close bromance/working partnership with his boss.

“You know Jony. He’s kind of a cherub,” Jobs told one of the authors of Becoming Steve Jobs, during an earlier magazine interview. “I liked him right away. And I could tell after that first meeting that [former Apple CEO Gil Amelio] had wasted his talent.”

Becoming Steve Jobs is out March 24. We’ll have a full review on Cult of Mac soon.

Source: Fast Company