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FT profiles Jony Ive: Transformational designer who understood the politics of Jobs

In a Financial Times story about Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive “emerging from [Steve] Jobs’ shadow,” we get a few interesting stories from ex-Apple employees regarding the design guru’s work ethic. While one anonymous ex-Apple employee told the publication Ive’s “main talent was his ability to manage his relationship with Jobs,” Path chief and former Apple employee Dave Morin remembers Ive as a perfectionist.

Morin described a story about Ive spending three months adjusting the MacBook design to ensure it could be easily operated with one finger:

“We have insane amounts of respect for him,” says Dave Morin, chief executive of Path and a former Apple employee, who recalls attending a meeting at Apple that Sir Jonathan conducted. An upset employee complained about an aspect of the MacBook laptop that made it difficult for disabled people to use. Sir Jonathan explained that the team had gone to great lengths to design every feature so that a person could operate the machine with one finger, including testing and adjusting the weight of the screen for three months so that it could be opened, with one finger, without tipping the laptop over. 

Ive’s portrait currently hangs at the Path offices in a conference room named after the design chief. Morin added, “Great products come from great partnerships between a designer and an entrepreneur,” presumably referring to Ive’s close relationship with Jobs whom Ive called his closest and “most loyal friend.” 

Speaking about Ive’s relationship with Jobs, the anonymous Apple employee claimed Ive often exploited his the partnership “for his own advancement.” He continued:

“Jony’s a very, very political person… You do not want to cross him or you lose pretty much everything.”

Chief Executive Officer of Frog Design Mark Rolston suggested to FT that not everyone sees Ive as a transformational designer:

“There are two schools of thought on this… One is that he is a transformational designer, someone who’s transcended typical notions of quality and brought something really special to the market. A more complicated read is that he was the right man at the right time.”

Though Ive told Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson “it hurts when he [Jobs] takes credit for one of my designs,” he also explained his ideas “would have been completely irrelevant, nowhere, if Steve hadn’t been here to push us, work with us, and drive us through all the resistance to turn our ideas into products.” 

Ive recently gave a rare interview about his design process with the Evening Standard. 

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Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.