Sir Jonathan Ive KBE RDI, Apple’s famously discreet and unostentatious senior vice president of Design, has given a rare extended interview to the UK’s Sunday Times (subscription needed). And it wasn’t even to spruik any latest launch or new product. The journalist granted this special favour was the UK’s John Arlidge, a Cambridge-educated freelance reporter who files for The Sunday Times in London and Conde Nast publications in New York.
The interview, which also appeared in a slightly different form in Time magazine, took place on Ive’s 47th birthday (he was born on 27 February 1967) at 1 Infinite Loop – aka Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California.
In the in-depth exclusive profile, Ive talked about a number of topics, including his path to success (he ditched a car design course in London because, “The classes were full of students making vroom! vroom! noises as they drew,” and instead studied design at Newcastle Polytechnic), his lack of assimilation into the US despite having lived there for over 20 years (“I can’t even bring myself to say math, instead of maths, so I say mathematics. I sound ridiculous”), his preference for being seen as a maker, rather than a designer (“Objects and their manufacture are inseparable. You understand a product if you understand how it’s made”) and, of course, his relationship with his “closest friend” Steve Jobs (“So much has been written about Steve, and I don’t recognise my friend in much of it. Yes, he had a surgically precise opinion. Yes, it could sting. Yes, he constantly questioned. ‘Is this good enough? Is this right?’ but he was so clever. His ideas were bold and magnificent. They could suck the air from the room. And when the ideas didn’t come, he decided to believe we would eventually make something great. And, oh, the joy of getting there!”)
Mostly, however, he talked about design – his approach to it, his dreams for it and why he thinks Apple’s products are so highly regarded. “We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care.”
Of course, what Arlidge and every other interested soul on the planet really wants to know is what Ive is working on currently and whether that is giving him the satisfaction he must have felt when producing the iMac, iPod, iPad or iOS 7.
Unsurprisingly, Ive didn’t give away any concrete details, though, like Tim Cook has done frequently in recent times, he did allude to something thrilling and game-changing on the horizon.
Arlidge asked him if he would give up if he thought that Apple was no longer able to completely redefine categories, if it “could no longer make stuff that shreds, not pushes, the envelope”.
Ive agreed should that be the case, he would certainly quit. But that he doesn’t see that happening any time soon.
“We are at the beginning of a remarkable time, when a remarkable number of products will be developed. When you think about technology and what it has enabled us to do so far, and what it will enable us to do in future, we’re not even close to any kind of limit. It’s still so, so new,” he concluded.
You can access the Time version of the entire interview here.