Sir Jony Ive, chief design officer at Apple and the creative mind behind many of its flagship products, made waves when he announced his departure from the tech giant on Thursday. The British designer of the iMac, iPod and iPhone is leaving to set up his own creative business called LoveFrom, with Apple as its founding client.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief creative officer, said Ive’s "role in Apple's revival cannot be overstated". But Ive was also a significant influence on a generation of creative leaders and their work. Below, executives from adland reflect on his legacy – plus Campaign charts his creative path, starting with his university days in England.
Executive creative director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
God is in the details.
And now the god of details has left the building.
Jony Ive doesn’t really need a tribute from me.
The tribute to him lies in the fact that the words I’m writing about him are being typed on the keyboard he designed, on the iPhone he introduced to the world.
Make something wonderful, Steve Jobs said, and put it out there.
I think we can safely say Jony Ive answered that brief.
Global chief creative officer, Cheil
Jony Ive took the all-too-serious engineered, injection-moulded world of consumer electronics design, drew from the simplicity of Dieter Rams and infused it with personality. His legacy is huge; consumer tech made to be fun, playful, seductively simple, elegant – and enviably expensive.
Executive creative director, R/GA London
The impact of Ive’s work reaches far beyond just the category of design. As one of the first to create technology experiences with "love", he pioneered what’s currently called a human-centric approach. His empathy and unique sensibility transcends the traditional brackets and channels the "inevitable" simplicity that’s going to have a lasting effect on generations to come.
Chief executive, Fold7
Jony Ive’s story is a huge testament to the power of British designers. As a country, we punch far above our weight when you consider the likes of him, Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen, James Dyson, Stella McCartney and others.
It’s also testament to the power of ideas. The iPhone had an unprecedented impact on the world; it not only made the Apple brand what it is today, but also created whole industries that never existed before. That ability to see beyond the norm and innovate at scale is not something just anyone can do. I used to work with his sister Ali Ive (a wonderful and talented planner), so there’s clearly something extraordinary in the Ive family genes that’ll be tough to replicate.
The question is whether Apple has built a sustainable culture of creativity and tech innovation. If it has, it will absolutely survive Jony moving on, just as the brand survived the untimely loss of Steve Jobs. So in this context, it’s less whether Apple can make the next iPhone and more whether it can make the next Jony Ive.
Chief executive, Leagas Delaney
We often say that an idea isn’t an idea unless it changes a business. The iPhone was an idea that changed more than a business; it changed the world. If we think of the businesses that might not exist without it – Uber, Tinder and even Facebook would have struggled to monetise outside of desktop in the way they have without touchscreen smartphones. Jony was instrumental in the creation of the iPhone and it propelled Apple into being one of – if not the – biggest brands in the world.
For Ive, after 30 years and a peerless list of achievements, it was probably just a good time for him to try something new. It won’t dent Apple’s talent base or future potential, because it has been focused on being a company that’s bigger than any one individual, evidenced by the fact that it has flourished since Jobs.
Innovation lead, VCCP
Jony Ive’s iMac and iPod designs were instrumental in Apple’s resurgence, but the iPhone will be his legacy. It wasn’t the first smartphone, but it defined the form which every smartphone since has followed. The iPhone’s keyboardless, multi-touch, all-screen design showed the way that people could interact with mobile computers. The form and function were quickly copied by Android (to Steve Jobs’ fury) and 12 years later there are about four billion smartphones in the world. The smartphone has created new ways to communicate, to remember, to buy, to learn, to navigate the world. We would have got there eventually, but Ive’s iPhone made the future happen sooner. It’s the icon of our times.
Partner and communications creative director, Free the Birds
Jony Ive has been sitting next to me in every meeting with every client who has had doubts about a challenging idea or design. Nodding in his direction, I explain how belief in the cocktail of disruption, function and aesthetics can be very commercially rewarding. It could even make you the most valuable company in the world. And they like a business rationale, clients. Ive created billions of examples of how design can mould emotions and opinions. Influential? The two tools which have most shaped our evolution are the axe and the iPhone.
Group creative director, VaynerMedia London
What can we learn from Jony Ive’s time at Apple? Beyond the designs, the iconic phones and laptops, one thing among everything stands out for me.
Trust. Jony Ive’s successes come from a single driving force: complete trust in his vision, his abilities and potential to lead a design language and build his own process to deliver. Agencies and clients often hold Apple up as an example of brand and creative vision. To do that, we need to look at the heart of that process. Believing in the strength of our teams to deliver.
Chief provocation officer, Elmwood
Jony Ive’s creative legacy is probably a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, he gave rise to British design’s high profile in global consumer goods, but Apple’s built-in obsolescence may not jive so well with future generations on sustainability.
He did, however, democratise everyday creativity – with the iMac, he brought a cool simplicity to the PC. You literally plugged it in and played. And the iPod was so distinctive that its posters didn’t even need copy!
Ironically, the obsessive care he put into every design interaction means many of us pay very little care or attention to the things we create – and instantly dispose of – today.
Jony Ive’s creative path: a timeline
1985 Ive begins studying design at Newcastle Polytechnic and goes on to graduate with first-class honours. Meanwhile, Apple founder Steve Jobs is forced out of the company.
1989 Ive joins London design start-up Tangerine. Apple becomes a client and Ive leads the design of the PowerBook.
1992 Ive joins Apple in California and is tasked with working on new versions of the Newton and MessagePad. Design and commercial failures plague the company, prompting Ive to almost quit.
1997 Jobs returns to Apple as chief executive. Ive is soon promoted to senior vice-president of industrial design. His first design assignment is the iMac computer.
1998 The iMac launches with a colourful and striking design that stands out against beige and boxey competitors. Its success reverses a decade of decline for Apple.
2001 The iPod music player launches and, like the iMac, sets Apple devices apart as beautiful design objects.
2002 Ive is promoted to senior vice-president of design, where Jobs tasks him with lead design responsibility for all of Apple’s hardware products.
2007 Apple launches the first iPhone.
2010 The iPad, a tablet computer with similar software to the iPhone, is launched.
2012 Ive is knighted.
2015 The Apple Watch is launched as hardware makers begin producing "wearable" devices that pair with smartphones and contain health-tracking features.
2016 Apple launches AirPods, Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones.
2019 Ive announces he is leaving Apple to start his own company, LoveFrom, with Apple as a founding client.