It is the end of an era at Apple. Jony Ive will leave the company later this year to start a new venture of his own, called LoveFrom — with Apple as his first client.
The Financial Times spoke to Sir Jonathan for almost an hour this week about why he is making the change now, what LoveFrom will do and the legacy he leaves at Apple.
This is a condensed transcript of the FT’s interview with the world’s most famous designer.
Why he is leaving now
“There were some significant projects that I feel like I've completed. For example Apple Park — this was a project that started in 2004 . . . A couple of weeks ago we had our official opening of the Park. That was a really significant project, that was unlike many of our others, because it was for us.
I think that part of the timing for LoveFrom is in some ways connected to having a very clear sense about the health and vitality of the design team. I'm actually looking forward to contributing in a different way to projects we've been working together on for, in some cases, many years.
I certainly have an ambition and feel almost a moral obligation to be useful. I feel I've been fortunate enough to work with remarkable people over the last 30-plus years and have worked on some very interesting projects and solved some very difficult problems. I feel keenly aware of a responsibility to do something significant with that learning.”
How he will continue to work with Apple
“While I will not be an employee, I will still be very involved — I hope for many, many years to come. This just seems like a natural and gentle time to make this change.
I am so close to the design team . . . The last 30 years have seen a range of significant products, but I think the creation of an approach to creativity, to culture and the building of a team together has been a real labour of love. I really am extremely happy — this really I see as an evolution of our working relationship.
If you are doing something that is going to be truly innovative, it's difficult, it's hard and it takes time. It often requires enabling technology that takes years to develop . . . There are products that we've been working on for a number of years — I’m beyond excited that I get to continue working on those. And there are some new projects as well that I'll get to develop and contribute to.”
On Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer
“I've worked with Jeff for decades. He is a very close friend and an extraordinarily talented guy.
I worked with Jeff at the very earliest stages on Apple Watch and he, I think, represents an extraordinary combination of the optimisations that are necessary in creating a singular product. He has a tremendous intuition and judgment around products. That is combined with an extremely deep sense of the engineering pragmatics associated with developing complex products.”
His new venture, LoveFrom
“There was an employee meeting a number of years ago and Steve [Jobs] was talking . . . He [said] that one of the fundamental motivations was that when you make something with love and with care, even though you probably will never meet . . . the people that you're making it for, and you'll never shake their hand, by making something with care, you are expressing your gratitude to humanity, to the species.
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I so identified with that motivation and was moved by his description. So my new company is called ‘LoveFrom’. It succinctly speaks to why I do what I do.
Really it is the culmination of what I've learned and intend to continue learning from the last 30 years. It will be a collection of creatives . . . from around the world that come from quite diverse areas of expertise.
Marc [Newson, the Australian designer who joined Apple in 2014] will continue to work with me and he'll be doing that at LoveFrom. He'll continue to work with me on Apple projects and of course we'll work on some other projects together. He's a remarkable designer.”
The problems he wants to solve next
“There are some areas that are personal natural passions for me. The work that we've been doing with wearable technology — with technology becoming more personal, there is an inevitability that it becomes worn.
With that, it wasn't opportunism . . . we saw we could use technology to be extraordinarily useful in relation to our health and wellbeing. This area is one that I've been fascinated by, as is specifically addressed by wearable technology.”
What makes good design
“As a designer, what I think you are trying to do is solve extremely complex problems but make that resolution very simple. You're not dragging people through the victories — or otherwise — that you've been working on.
Jony Ive’s departure
Articles in this series examine the reasons behind Apple’s chief design officer’s exit and what it means for the future of the company.
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Sometimes you see a product with the designer wagging their tail in your face. I'm really proud of all of those victories that are unseen.
One of my defining characteristics is almost a fanatical curiosity. That is fundamental and foundational to most creative endeavour. But if you don't have the space, if you don't have the tools and the infrastructure, that curiosity can often not have the opportunity to be pursued.”
What comes after the iPhone
“To do something different is very easy. I have no interest in that. There's no motivation that I derive from being different. I'm interested in trying to make things better. I'm interested in trying to develop and craft products and experiences that are characterised by their care and not of carelessness.
It comes back to motivation, doesn't it? My motivation is to be very aware of what I have learned and take that learning and the approaches that I've developed and use those toward trying to make good products. I'm using the word “products” fabulously ambiguously.
It gets back to how you define success. Numbers has never been the measure that I turn to affirm or describe the success of a product.”
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