The New Yorker has just published a gazillion-word profile of Apple design god Jony Ive. Take an hour or two to read it, if you can.
The most astonishing thing about the piece is that it exists. Clearly, the era of the obsessively press-averse Apple is over. Journalist Ian Parker was given unprecedented access to Ive, his design studio, and even places like the behind-the-scenes hangout at the Apple Watch launch.
Along the way, we learn pretty much everything we wanted to know about Ive. Except, of course, what he’s working on next.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that the Apple Watch is more Ive’s product than anything else Apple has produced to date. We’ll see if that’s good news or not, since it seems to be in part driven by Ive’s desire to move more into the realm of creating luxury design, rather than products for the average person.
In the meantime, here are some of the big and small things we learned from reading the piece:
1. There is a Playmobil likeness of Ive made in jest by some fellow designers. He keeps it in his office, and a picture of it is his lock-screen image on his iPhone.
2. After Steve Jobs died, Ive bought his 20-seat Gulfstream GV jet.
3. For a self-proclaimed shy guy, Ive has a ton of famous friends. Indeed, the article is a name-drop-a-palooza of Ive’s buds: Bono, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Stephen Fry, Bono, British DJ John Digweed, Bono, and Yo-Yo Ma.
4. Apple has three recruiters who work full-time on finding new designers for Ive’s team. They hire about one each year.
5. One of those designers works only on color.
6. Ive’s design team works 12-hour days.
7. Only two designers have left Apple in 15 years, and one of those was sick.
8. Ive hates Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of Steve Jobs. “My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he said with what Parker described as “unusual heat.”
9. Ive currently lives in a two-bedroom house in San Francisco while a 1920s mansion he bought in Pacific Heights is being seismically retrofitted and renovated by the same architects who designed Apple’s new campus.
10. Ive, a famous car buff, has used a driver for the past year.
11. In what may cause an epic spasm of nerdy fandom, Ive apparently had a hand in designing the lightsabers in the new Star Wars movies. He apparently gave some feedback to director J.J. Abrams at a “boozy dinner party” which the director said he was incorporating. What was the feedback?
According to Parker, Ive said he wanted more “unevenness” in the lightsabers. “I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty.” A redesigned weapon could be “more analog and more primitive, and I think, in that way, somehow more ominous.”
Note: Ive said he did NOT design the odd lightsaber seen in the trailer.
12. The Apple Watch went from being a conversation to an official project in the fall of 2011, around the time of the death of Jobs.
13. Part of the reason Apple hired Angela Ahrendts from Burberry to be its senior vice president of retail was that it knew it would need to rethink Apple Stores in a way to display luxury goods. Ive and Ahrendts are working on that redesign.
14. At the time of the unveiling of the Apple Watch last September, the feature that causes the watch screen to wake up when the arm is lifted was “glitchy.” Some users had to lift their arm or wiggle it several times to wake up the watch.
15. Ive is also designing some elements of the new Apple campus, including staircases and signs for security-card readers.