Lest We Forget, Apple’s Jony Ive Has Changed Our Lives

4 minute read
| Particle Debris

The Particle Debris article of the week comes from the Smithsonian Magazine.

Sometimes we forget. Every Apple product we use has been through the design process of Chief Design Officer Sir Jonathan Ive. That design process dictates how the our iPhone feels in our hands, how the MacBook Pro looks (and feels), and, for example, how we interact with our devices, even Siri.

Apple Park, Apple's new San Jose headquarters, opens in April 2017

The Ring at Apple Park.

We’ve become accustomed to this. It’s easy to take for granted how we use Apple products. That is, until we accidentally use a product from another company. (Oh, that Mr. Ive would mercifully get involved with TVs and audio/video receivers. Alas, Apple doesn’t go there.)

The Smithsonian suggests that great design work is facilitated when the offices themselves sparkle with the same design motifs.

One of the Ive creations that Apple launched this fall is the company’s vast new headquarters in Cupertino, California. The Ring, as Apple employees call the main building on the new campus, is an enormous glass circle that wraps around a landscape of meadows and imported California hardwood trees. Ive spent more than five years working closely with the British architect Norman Foster on virtually every detail, from the 900 curved, 45-foot-long glass panels that serve as walls, to the elevator buttons, which are subtly concave (like the home button on an old iPhone) and made of brushed aluminum (like a MacBook).

Then, of course, there’s the inspirational view. If one has to work in a building, one should, at least, feel connected with the beauty of one’s home planet. In 2017, some companies still fail to recognize that.

The path to the visitor center is no less inspiring.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the design studio commands the very best views, from the fourth floor of the Ring, near the offices of the top executives. The studio is huge, and Ive is as excited about its possibilities as a kid finally given a chance to tinker in his dad’s workshop.

And that’s one of the lessons here. Great products come from people who have the time to sit back, ponder, engage in creative play and interact with inspiring colleagues.

It’s a truism in tech design that it takes a great deal of work to make something easy to use, and no company has proven the principle more spectacularly than Apple. It came straight from Jobs, who pushed his engineers and designers to remember that it wasn’t the device that customers wanted—it was the experience…

The iPhone X exemplifies that process. Smithsonian author Rick Tetzeli tells a personal story.

Ive places his space-gray iPhone X on the coffee table next to my iPhone 7-plus, whose white bezel frames its rectangle of glass display. Mine is only a year old, but it looks clunky in comparison. Ive picks up my iPhone and gives a pointed appraisal of his own earlier handiwork: ‘It now seems to me a rather disconnected component housed in an enclosure.’

The evolution at work is breathtaking.

As our technology becomes more sophisticated, perhaps more invasive, it’s good to know that Jony Ive is supervising our Apple experiences. It’s something to remember when we run across articles that celebrate the technical brutality of competing products that we might use with mild dismay and, sometimes, outright alarm.

Next Page: The News Debris For The Week of November 27th. Apple’s mistake of the century.

8 Comments Add a comment

  1. geoduck

    Now that the Ring is done, I hope Ive gets back to devices and systems. This fixation on thinner and blanker has gone too far. Maybe he can pay more attention to what we really need. I am fear though, that his best design years are in the past.

    • Lee Dronick

      Maybe he can pay more attention to what we really need

      Convincing Craig Federighi to add a send button to Messages in OSX so that Return adds a carriage return.. If can be done in the iOS version it can be done in OSX.

  2. Ned

    Some people work better with a certain amount of pressure, call it an extra level of challenge. I suspect Ive doesn’t have that lanky observer/patron/mentor pushing him anymore and he’s becoming lost. This happens to a lot of creatives, heck people in general. The effective boot camp DI pushes you to the next level, to go beyond what you think your limitations are.

    “Stood there boldly, sweating. in the sun. Felt like a million, felt like number one. The height of Summer, I’d never felt that strong, like a rock….” “…My walk had purpose, my steps were quick and light and I held firmly to what I felt was right, like a rock.” Bob Seger “Like A Rock”

  3. wab95


    Rene Ritchie’s article on iOS 11 security is a worthwhile read, and takes a measured tone on an otherwise divisive topic, which can be neatly summarised in one excerpt from that piece,

    “…I understand the need to balance loss vs. theft. I understand that, for some of my friends, losing access to the photos of their children because they couldn’t remember a backup or account password would hurt them far more than some theoretical attacker gaining access to them. And it is absolutely not my place or right to judge them or anyone else based on that difference in priorities. Especially because security conscious people like myself have other options.”

    That last sentence is key.

    The article also diagnoses the underlying reason why he needed to make that statement, and it is a diagnosis that extends beyond the topic of security options to all things digital, including OS configurations and access to system files, management of apps, to hardware options, to biometrics and on and on, namely,

    “People and certainly the internet aren’t often good at handling situations where multiple truths exist and the needs of different people are at odds with their own.”

    I couldn’t agree more, and sincerely wish that commenters could take a moment, and perhaps even a deep breath (there’s an app for that) before responding to posts by authors whose needs and constraints, never mind perspectives, differ from their own. It’s not simply a question of empathy or even courtesy, as important a currency as the latter is, but of achieving a wider appreciation of complex topics and their solutions. It would also facilitate our ability to appreciate a simple truth; sustainable solutions oftentimes must be a balance between competing needs, as well as the limitations of both available technologies and the humans that have to use them. As for those for whom those solutions are inadequate, in most cases, they have other options.

    I concur with the gist of Will Oremus’ article on naming our AIs. Personally, I’d prefer to call my AI ‘computer’, because that’s what I’m interacting with; a non-sentient interface, not a sentient being. Anthropomorphism is not without psychological and financial consequence, as studies on both adults and children amply demonstrate. We need only to look at the form of the robot toys on offer for home use. I don’t see the capacity to rename our AI interface, according to personal preference, could not be a feature.

    As for quantum encryption, I too, can’t wait.

    • geoduck

      As far as anthropomorphising AIs,
      There is a school of thought that sentient is not really meaningful. Consciousness and self awareness are just the result of more complex programming. Therefore who is to say Siri is less sentient and self aware than the guy on the buss with his nose buried in his phone, oblivious to his surroundings. As we cannot know what’s going on in another’s mind, though my wife believes I should be able to, we cannot say what sentience really means. There reaches a point where a programmed AI is indistinguishable from a person. If Siri reaches the point where it can pass the Touring Test, and appears for all sense and purposes to be a real human mind, then how do we know she isn’t?

  4. Ned

    As to the the sub heading to the Amazon devices photo: Where was the warning from Apple with texting on the iPhone? How many motor vehicle deaths occurred before Apple added a simple software update to deactivate features while in a moving vehicle while denying culpability? How many deaths might occur with AR glasses as people focus on fake images super imposed on reality? Will there be advance warnings? Ever been in a car where the driver watched the falling snow and not the road in front of them? Does Apple push subscription to Apple Music? Does Apple insist you add Apple Pay Cash before completing the iOS 11.2 update? They’re all trying to sell you something.

    Finally, I asked The Mac Observer about the features of ATSC 3.0, the new Over The Air TV Standard accepted by the FCC last month. This incorporates Internet features that will send viewers targeted advertisements. Formerly free, cord cutting TV will record your viewing habits better than the Nielsen ratings. Where is the concern or information over this? Ajit Pai is a big supporter of ATSC 3.0 – any concerns? How is the internet component to work? The Federal Government that can’t provide Broadband internet across the US is going to incorporate internet into free OTA TV? How is that going to happen? This standard will require new tuners or TVs and new wireless routers, possibly even new mobile devices to receive the OTA signal. The switch over is to be completed between 2020 to 2025 when the current ATSC 1.0 will be shut down.

    Targeted advertising based on your viewing habits through Over The Air TV whether at home or on the road. Location based services too? But those worries that there’s an always on microphone on a device that you can cut off, unplug or just not buy.

  5. Tom McGee

    Jony is brilliant, the best in the world, at hardware and fails miserably at software, there ought to be a law… This isn’t his fault, but Cook’s.

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