Jony Ive interviewed by the Sunday Times Magazine

The original interview is behind a paywall, but the entire interview was also carried by Time Magazine (follow the headline link for that version).

Lots has been made of this interview by various Apple blogging sites. I found this comment by CultOfMac’s Leander Kahney, who wrote the recent Jony Ive book, the most telling:

It claims to be the first in-depth interview Ive has given in twenty years at Apple, but breaks absolutely no ground whatsoever. Irritatingly, I can see the fingerprints of my Jony Ive biography all over the piece, but there’s no mention of the book.

The strangest thing is that Ive recycles the same quotes he’s used in the past. Believe me, I’ve read them all. He says that Steve Jobs’ ideas sometimes sucked the air from the room (previously uttered in his tribute to Jobs) and that he wanted to be a car designer, but other students made weird “vroom vroom” noises while they worked (from an Observer interview). There’s absolutely nothing new in the entire piece including the obligatory hint of an amazing new product, which of course, he can’t talk about.

Fair points. This interview is relatively short and no substitute for a book length exploration of someone’s life. That said, I read Kahney’s book and was not put off by this interview at all. I thought the interview felt fresh, was well written, and was a fun read.

On to the interview itself. On love of craft:

A love of making is something he shared with Jobs, Apple’s former chief executive who died three years ago. It helped the two men forge the most creative partnership modern capitalism has seen. In less than two decades, they transformed Apple from a near-bankrupt also-ran into the most valuable corporation on the planet, worth more than $665 billion.

“Steve and I spent months and months working on a part of a product that, often, nobody would ever see, nor realize was there,” Ive grins. Apple is notorious for making the insides of its machines look as good as the outside. “It didn’t make any difference functionally. We did it because we cared, because when you realize how well you can make something, falling short, whether seen or not, feels like failure.”

On pricing and reuse:

Critics complain about the built-in obsolescence of Apple products, its hermetically sealed operating systems, the need to buy new chargers for new products and the prices it charges. Oh, the prices! $20 for a plastic charger that probably costs less than $2 to make! Chargers and iOS are matters for Apple’s software fellas and the firm’s new boss, Tim Cook. When it comes to obsolescence, Ive himself concedes he is carrying the fifth version of a phone that was only invented in 2007, with, yes, a new charger. But, he says: “One of the things that is distinct about our products is that they get reused and passed on.” What do you do with your old iPhones? “Erm. Actually, they’re not mine. They’re the company’s.” What does the company do with them? “We reuse stuff and then we’ll disassemble stuff and recycle stuff. iI understand what’s behind the question, but I think it’s a fundamental — and good — part of the human condition to try to make things better. That’s the role we’re playing.”

On where he works:

His first few years were frustrating. Back then, Apple’s products were dull. Remember the Newton? Thought not. Design didn’t matter much. He almost quit several times. But when Steve Jobs, who had been ousted in 1985, returned to try to save the firm in 1996, he spotted Ive’s talent and the two men set out on their maniacal journey to remake what they saw as the bland, lazy world around them. Or at least the bits of it they thought they could change. Unlike other electronics giants that make everything from computers to cameras to fridges, Apple makes and has only ever made three things: computers, entertainment devices and phones.

Ive works in a design studio in a building on one corner of Apple’s campus at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, the firm’s address. It looks like all the other dull, un-Apple-like glass and beige — yes, beige — concrete blocks. With one really big difference. The glass is opaque and no-one other than Ive, his core team and top Apple executives is allowed in. “The reason is, it’s the one place you can go and see everything we’re working on — all the designs, all the prototypes,” Ive says.

His team, from Britain, America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, “is really much smaller than you’d think — about 15. Most of us have worked together for 15 to 20 years.” That’s useful. “We can be bitterly critical of our work. The personal issues of ego have long since faded.” The large open-plan studio is, like most of Ive’s personal Apple products, all-white. A large wooden bench, like the Genius Bars in Apple Stores, is devoted to new products. At one end are a lot of CNCS — high-tech machines that are used to make prototypes. “Everyone I work with shares the same love of and respect for making,” he says.

On working with Steve Jobs:

Was Jobs as tough as people say? Stories abound of him humiliating underlings and even — perhaps especially — top executives. “So much has been written about Steve, and I don’t recognize 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!”

There’s much more to the interview, as well as an embedded video that looks to have been put together by Time as an add-on to the interview.