Apple is a company with “a bunch of worrying individuals.”
Jony Ive shared this with a New Yorker TechFest audience Friday as an executive paid to shoulder more worries than most. The chief design officer at Apple doesn’t do many interviews, but he joined The New Yorker editor Dave Remnick onstage for a brief but insightful chat.
Ive hinted at his own worries, telling Remnick of a vigilance for finding design flaws. Missing them is an occupational hazard, he said.
“Every single object made testifies to the values and preoccupations of the people that got together to make it,” Ive said. “One of the defining characteristics of the design team is that we’re always hopelessly inquisitive.”
Careless design, he said, comes from building to schedule or for an opportunistic end, rather than designing for people.
He is as hungry about new design as ever and says this nature comes from wanting to fix things.
Asked by Remnick what he detested, I’ve responded, “Most things, really.”
Ive said it broke his heart to watch Apple “drift into irrelevance” during a rocky period in the 1990s.
He and founder Steve Jobs “clicked” immediately when they first met, but Jobs was blunt, telling Ive he was ineffective at his job. Ive was not offended, he said, because Jobs was right.
“I had the most wonderful teacher in Steve Jobs,” he told Remnick. “I have never met anybody with his focus. Steve would say, ‘Jony, you have to understand there are measures of focus and one of them is how often you say no.’ It’s exhausting but necessary to sustain focus.”
Ive feels joy when a user writes him a letter and described Apple customers as “fabulous and not reticent about giving feedback.”
Remnick asked Ive if Apple can still be revolutionary. Ive said absolutely. Sometimes, good ideas have to wait for the technology to catch up, he said. He said much of the tech in the iPhone X was five years in the making.
Apple made many mistakes, he admitted, but he remains confident those didn’t happen because people were lazy.
Asked about his most interesting failure, Ive said, “What a good question. I’m not sure if failure was interesting.”