Chief designer spent the last couple of years distancing himself from Apple and rarely came into the office
Last week the world was shocked when it was revealed that Sir Jony Ive, the British designer of the iPhone, was leaving Apple to form his own design company.
But now a report has suggested that Sir Jony had spent his final years distancing himself from Apple, with his last major design contribution (other than its new HQ) being the Apple Watch, introduced back in 2015.
Sir Jony’s contribution to Apple’s revival could not be overstated, CEO Tim Cook said last week, and the British designer was also described by Apple’s co-founder, the late Steve Jobs, as his spiritual partner at the firm.
But now according to an article in Wired by John Arlidge, who interviewed Sir Jony on a number of occasions, it has been suggested that the British designer’s commitment to Apple had been on the wane for years.
Arlidge described 52-year-old Sir Jony as “the most unremarkable remarkable person you could meet,” citing him as being “not particularly tall, has a shaved head, two-day-old stubble and dresses like dads do on weekends – navy polo shirt, canvas trousers, desert boots.”
Despite all his years in America, Sir Jony remained committed to his British roots and reportedly rejected the US love of coffee and instead remains dedicated to tea (his assistants apparently have strict instructions to have Earl Grey on hand).
Sir Jony also previously dismissed reports about the abrasive personality of the late Steve Jobs.
“So much has been written about Steve, and I don’t recognise my friend in much of it,” Sir Jony reportedly said. “Yes, he had a surgically precise opinion. Yes, it could sting. But he was so clever. His ideas were bold and magnificent. And when the ideas didn’t come, he decided to believe we would eventually make something great. And, oh, the joy of getting there!”
But Arlidge wrote that Apple has not had a break-out hardware hit since the iPad in 2010. Sir Jony’s most recent project was finishing Apple’s new corporate headquarters, Apple Park.
Indeed it should be remembered that in 2011 it was reported that Sir Jony was at “loggerheads” with Apple’s board, over his wish to move back to the UK.
Sir Jonathan and his wife were said to be keen to return back to England to raise their children and send them to British schools.
Sir Jony even proposed a plan to “commute” to Cupertino, California, from his Georgian manor house in Somerset.
And Sir Jony also told Arlidge that if times changed, if Apple could no longer make stuff that shreds, not pushes, the envelope, what would he do. Would he give up? “Yes. I’d stop,” he replied without hesitation. “I’d make things for myself, for my friends instead. The bar needs to be high.”
Meanwhile Bloomberg reported that after the Watch launched in 2015, Sir Jony began to shed responsibilities.
The day-to-day running of the Apple’s design team was reduced to Sir Jony coming into Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino as little as twice a week.
Instead it was reported that meetings began shifting to San Francisco, where Sir Jony occasionally met with team members at employees’ homes or hotels.
Sir Jony even went as far as to set up an office and studio in San Francisco.
Whatever the truth in these reports, Sir Jony will remain closely tied to Apple, as the iPad maker has secured itself as the major client of his new design firm (LoveForm).
It remains to be seen whether that move is just to keep Sir Jony’s design talents out of the reach of rival tech firms, or whether the two can invent the next ‘insanely-great-idea’ in the year’s ahead.
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