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Jonathan Ive - Apple's Design Magician 211

Posted by Zonk
from the rabbit-plus-hat-equals-ipod dept.
conq writes "BusinessWeek takes an in-depth look at the man behind the Apple magic. The article features a slideshow with all his designs (including one before he was with Apple)." From the article: "During an internship with design consultancy Roberts Weaver Group, he created a pen that had a ball and clip mechanism on top, for no purpose other than to give the owner something to fiddle with. 'It immediately became the owner's prize possession, something you always wanted to play with,' recalls Grinyer, a Roberts Weaver staffer at the time. 'We began to call it having Jony-ness, an extra something that would tap into the product's underlying emotion.'"
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Jonathan Ive - Apple's Design Magician

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  • by HatchedEggs (1002127) on Friday September 15, 2006 @01:06PM (#16115221) Homepage Journal
    You have to admit, the guy must have some creative genious in him. Looking at all those projects there isn't one that I didn't like. The only one that had me scratching my head a little bit about was the vertical fax. Of course, perhaps there was a reason to the madness of that. Regardless, the designs implemented by the groups he has worked with are great.
    • Whats the deal with mentioning the amazing pen and not showing a pic of it?

      C'mon guys, get it together. Now I have to go do a search on it...

      _________________________________________
      http://hatchedeggs.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]
      • Hurry, it's your only chance of getting a +5 Informative

        I'm only being a little facetious... I want to know what the hell they're talking about too :-)

        • Yup, same here. That's why I clicked the link for the slideshow. Unfortunately, all I got was an upright fax machine (and a bunch of things I've seen before)...
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by HatchedEggs (1002127)
          If I get a +5 informative for that post then some people are definitely a bit too bored at work.

          btw, no such luck finding the pen so far.
          • well, hurry up and post the link... I'd put money on you getting a +5 informative... hell... people get it for pseudo-random wikipedia links :)
      • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Friday September 15, 2006 @01:19PM (#16115329)
        Now I have to go do a search on it...

        Here's a tip for you. Don't do a GIS for "ball clip." :-x
        • I guess the other tip would be to learn how to spell genius.

          Er, thanks though... I'll stay well away from that search.
      • They have a slide [businessweek.com] that talks about the Apple Remote but they don't actually show a picture [apple.com] of it.

        They also don't mention the best part about the design: the fact that it magnetically sticks to the side of an iMac. It's always there when you want it and easily transforms the iMac from a computer to media center.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rilister (316428)
      what bugs me about this hero worship is that the words "Jonathon Ives" frequently get confused with "Apple's ID group". See how often items in that article are actually credited to "Ives' team", rather than the guy himself?

      Apple have an extraordinary ID team, which obviously includes many talented individuals who simply don't get the credit. It's obviously in Apple's interests to build up the mystique of their 'genius' ID guru, but to the nameless ID's who executed these designs: I salute you!
      • Good point!

        And isn't that always the way of things. Hardly anything great is done solo, and yet so much of the time the rest of the team remains hidden in the background.

        I'm surprised that Jonathan Ive lets a guy run a web site in his name. Not that its such a bad thing, but the guy has done such a poor job of it.
      • The only difference between this article and any other Apple article is that it's not Steve Jobs whose being handed all the credit.

        Click on the Apple section and read another article. From the comments, you'd think Steve Jobs writes every single line of code in iTunes and OS X, and hand-solders every circuit on the motherboard of every Mac.

        The interesting thing is, in the early days, it really was one guy (woz) doing most of the heavy lifting.
    • by MojoStan (776183) on Friday September 15, 2006 @04:47PM (#16117132)
      the guy must have some creative genious in him. Looking at all those projects there isn't one that I didn't like.
      Of course, they didn't show the stinkers (IMO) like the original "toilet seat" iBook [wikipedia.org] or the "hockey puck" mouse [wikipedia.org]. I'm no design expert, but I think implementing/releasing bold designs is risky and some stinkers are inevitable. The original iMac looked great, but its hockey puck mouse and miniature keyboard [mini-blog.com] were awful (and both shipped with PowerMacs for years). The iMac colors and curves did not translate well to notebooks IMO (the white iBook corrected this) or the "blue and white" PowerMac ("graphite" corrected this). Also, some Apple products look fantastic but don't work very well (e.g. Mighty Mouse's cloggable scroll ball and finger-lifting requirement).

      Overall, I think occasional design flops are excusable if Apple's boldness/riskiness results in nice products like the iPod.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rxke (644923)
        The 'toilet seat' or clamshell was quite popular, and I still use it to this day occasionally, when I flip it open on the train, comments are invariably positive, so I wouldn't call it a stinker.

        (Likewise I preferred the puck above the later optical mouse, thought it fitted my hand better, but I guess I'm weird that way...)
  • by vancondo (986849) on Friday September 15, 2006 @01:12PM (#16115276) Homepage
    "During an internship with design consultancy Roberts Weaver Group, he created a pen that had a ball and clip mechanism on top, for no purpose other than to give the owner something to fiddle with."

    Sometimes I fiddle with my balls too, does that mean I have the same sort of creative energy?

    --
    The importance of balls in vancouver realestate [vancouvercondo.info]
    • Yeah, but do they have a clip on top, too? Wait, don't answer that...
    • Sometimes I fiddle with my balls too, does that mean I have the same sort of creative energy?

      No. no. no. You and the owner of the company are the useless people who play with the balls. Mr. Ives and whoever created your balls are the ones with creative energy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rampant mac (561036)
      "Sometimes I fiddle with my balls too, does that mean I have the same sort of creative energy?"

      Rappers play with their balls all the time as well, and "some" people consider them talented and creative. You're golden, mang.

  • by thesource1 (1003067) on Friday September 15, 2006 @01:18PM (#16115324)
    But where is it due. How many designers actually take credit for these things? If you dig around and see how many people claim to have had something to do with these designs, it becomes clear that a good chunk of this stuff is outsourced. And I'm not talking the nitty gritty stuff, I'm talking the conceptualizations as well. Don't get me wrong, the man's a genuis, but he isn't responsible for half this stuff.
    • Don't get me wrong, the man's a genuis, but he isn't responsible for half this stuff.

      I'm not sure what you're saying here. Ive leads a team of designers, so of course every rounded corner or concealed latch isn't his doing. But he is responsible for ensuring that when the hardware ships, the design is top notch. His work is as much about deciding what contributions to refuse as much as it is deciding which to accept. So ultimately he is responsible for all of it.

      I'm also unclear on what you mean by "o

    • by rahrens (939941)
      Didn't you read TFA? Ive WAS responsible for those designs. They were NOT outsourced. Cites, please? Put up or shut up.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Actually, he is. He's the vice-president of the design group and heads the teams that builds these things, particularly the iMac. Apple doesn't outsource their designs.
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Friday September 15, 2006 @01:18PM (#16115325)
    They have a slide saying that Jonathan Ive designed the Newton MessagePad 110. However, the picture they show is not the MessagePad 110 - it is a picture of the original MessagePad or the MessagePad 100 (which had the same case).

    Also, I KNOW that Jonathan Ive designed the eMate 300 which they don't show. I was not aware that he did design the 110 - which may not in fact be true. Possibly they are crediting him with the design of the wrong device. In any case, they look like idiots with a slide of the Newton 110 and a picture of the OMP (Original MessagePad).

    I would have emailed them to point out the problem, but was unable to find an email address in their "contact us" section.
    • by tb3 (313150) on Friday September 15, 2006 @01:37PM (#16115458) Homepage
      Bah, that's nothing, how about this gem?
      The Newton software became known for being far ahead of its time--and for disastrously mediocre voice-recognition software.

      No kidding! I screamed myself hoarse at my Newton, but it never listened.
      • Actually, they composed that page on a MessagePad. They wrote "comically unreliable handwriting processing system", and got "disastrously mediocre voice-recognition software." Somehow, it still ended up as parsable English, so the editors missed it.

    • by rahrens (939941)
      Hmmm..."(which had the same case)"

      I guess if it had the same case, then Ives must have designed that too? Just a slip up in the ID of the item in the photo then. True, it's not smart to do that in a major national publication!
      • by soft_guy (534437)
        No. I meant that the OMP and MP100 have the same case. The MP 110 has a different case. The caption says it is a MP 110 - the picture is EITHER an OMP or MP100 (the two things that have the same case.)
        • by rahrens (939941)
          Ah! That makes it clearer...so what you're saying is that is NOT the case that he designed...
    • recalls a colleague. "He had just insane attention to detail."
      Same can't be said for BusinessWeek. Let's start the fuck-ups shall we?

      Slide 3. The Newton didn't have voice recognition software. The picture is of a Newton 100 / Origonal Newton. Either they meant 100 - or they used the wrong picture. (both previously caught - but I'm trying to be complete here)

      Slide 4.
      Not an 1998 iMac. That's a late-model 1999 one with the slot-loading CD-drive and the dark-blue case. The origonal was bondi-blue.

      Slide 10.
      re:"B
  • by JumpingBull (551722) on Friday September 15, 2006 @02:24PM (#16115877)

    Partly because it isn't a sequential process, partly because it shows up in many different guises, and partly because it just is plain hard! The hardest part is making the design just disappear, so that the program, device or object "just works". Some references are "Design for the real world" by Victor Papanek, and "Critical Path" by Buckminster Fuller.

    Getting something to the point of "just working" takes time. The article mentions where a lot of the historical basis of the design elements come in. As an example, the Bauhaus school, which has rectilinear, minimialist lines, could not be confused with the Art Deco period, which has sweeping, organic lines modeled on natural plants. And either would not be confused with the organic shapes in a science fiction show, like Lexx. A designer knows the cultural associations, and cannily manipulates those to frame his message.

    Further, they are semi-conscious to the observer. The art of design consists of either fading into the woodwork so that the elements are almost not noticed (save for a feeling of "rightness") or having one element out of place so as to attract attention, but avoiding the over the top kitch. Once these associations are made, they become part of the cultural backdrop, and therefore more grist for the mill. Such is the magic of postmodernism.

    As an available example, the book is a cultural artifact; it is 2000 or more years old, and has a standard form that has been finessed for all those years. The design principles of typography are still a fertile area for exploration. O'Reilly has a colophon, how each book was made. For utilitatian subjects, they sure do put a lot of thought into presentation. A reference to typography is "Design Principles for Desktop Publishers" by Tom Lichty. He has a number of cited references inside that are worth checking out. Another one is "Desktop Publishing for Dummies". Your bookshelf has a number of other examples...
    And that is just one artifact. When you add electronics ...

    What I am impressed with is the obsession to detail that carries over not just from the look of the piece, but the ability to manufacture it easily as well. I guess that is what separates stellar performers from hack wanna-be's. But that implies that not only does Apple have great industrial designers, but they have a culture that seems to avoid the "fling it over the cube" mentality.

    But the real interest comes in knowing how to make this cultural leap, the business design principles. Rest assured, the design principles that can get you a stellar organization are closely guarded strategic secrets. However, is it just me, but have they not been in the open all along? And perhaps lost in the corporatist instrumentalist model so lovingly rendered in Machiavelli's "the Prince" and "the Discourses"?

  • by sloth jr (88200) on Friday September 15, 2006 @02:27PM (#16115913)
    Seriously. Many of his products seem to engender a love-hate relationship - either you really HATE the design, or you think it's amazingly cool. With such extremes, debate and dialogue is natural - and talking about a product is corporate PR nirvana, is it not? And here I'm going to do just that.

    With the exception of the original iMac, I haven't been that wowed by Jonathan's minimalist approach - sometimes, because it seems he's shooting for minimal controls but not for minimal real estate. For example, consider the PowerBook 17" waste of keyboard space - why not tack on a numeric keypad and shift the speakers to left and right of the trackpad? Because it disturbs some sense of symmetry? I dunno....

    Then the new iMac... ugh. That huge white space below the monitor (speakers???? anything???), and because of side placement of CD/DVD, inability of the unit to be placed within narrow enclosures... am I out-of-step here with the general design sensibilities of society? Do people genuinely love the iMac's design? If so - honestly, why?

    sloth jr
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by emudoug42 (977380)
      if they did that the keyboard would be off-center, and that would drive you insane after a short period. as for the new imac, well, i imagine speakers wouldn't fit there, and there's not too much point in adding something there just for the sake of it being there
    • by be-fan (61476)
      I think he's not afraid of a little blank space, which is something I think many designers are. I think we're so used to seeing every little bit used by something, that it shocks us to see empty space. But honestly, is there any reason to fill that space? It needs to be there because the computer is using the space behind it, and the speakers are just fine where they are, so why not have a blank part of the bezel? I think it works with the iMacs clean lines much better than a speaker-grille would.

      As for the
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      and because of side placement of CD/DVD, inability of the unit to be placed within narrow enclosures...

      Stupid question: Where would you put the CD/DVD drive?

      Your options are basically the top, the bottom, or one of the sides. Which of those seems most practical? (Of course, if you did really want a design coup you could do something like sliding it underneath the keyboard and having the computer interface with it via the USB cable.
    • by dunsurfin (570404) on Friday September 15, 2006 @04:40PM (#16117082)
      There is a handy use for the blank space on the iMac: Perfect for post-it notes. Works well for me...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      For example, consider the PowerBook 17" waste of keyboard space - why not tack on a numeric keypad and shift the speakers to left and right of the trackpad? Because it disturbs some sense of symmetry? I dunno....

      While I wouldn't mind a numeric keypad on my PowerBook either, I think you just demonstrated why you *aren't* a design genius, by putting the speakers directly under the user's wrists where they will be muffled, and where the grill is likely to accumulate dirt. I've used several laptops that place

  • The one Ives design I really like is the stalk iMac [businessweek.com]. Putting the display on a stalk allows the user to optimize its place — good ergonomics, minimized footprint, yada yada. Except it now seems obvious that the stalk iMac, like all of Ives creations, was about branding. All iMac models are identifiable by the fact that they're a single unit. In the early iMacs they just crammed the system hardware into the monitor box. In the recent iMacs, the system hardware has gotten small enough so they just have

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