The big discussion of late concerns whether Tim Cook can adequately fill the shoes of Steve Jobs as Apple’s CEO. But an equally valid question is: who will fill the shoes of Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design guru, when he moves on.
Hopefully, that will be a long, long way down the road. Ives is relatively young — he was born in 1967 — and, as far as I know, in fine health. Which is good, as he’s been just as important as Jobs in developing Apple’s incredible, industry-changing product designs.
Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of Industrial Design, has led Apple’s design team since the mid-1990s. Six of his designs are part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
“Products have to be designed better now for people to buy them because of Jony Ive and Steve Jobs,” says Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the museum. “All of a sudden people have gotten used to elegance and beauty, and there’s no going back.”
Ive’s list of awards and honors is long — and continually growing. The UK “Sunday Times” named Ive as one of Britain’s most influential expatriates in 2005. “The Daily Telegraph” ranked him the most influential Briton in America in 2008. In 1999, Ive was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35.
He was listed in the 2006 New Years Honours list, receiving a CBE, for services to the design industry. Ive was the winner of the Design Museum’s inaugural Designer of the Year award in 2002, and won again in 2003. In 2007, Ive received the 2007 National Design Award in the product design category for his work on the iPhone.
In 2008, Ive was awarded the MDA Personal Achievement award for the design of the Apple smartphone. In 2009, he received an honorary doctorate from the Rhode Island School of Design and was also named Honorary Doctor of the Royal College of Art. “Fortune” named him as the “world’s smartest designer” in 2010, for his work on Apple products.
Clearly, there is no “new Jonathan Ives” out there, just as there’s no “new Steve Jobs.” Both men are unique talents and visionaries. But just as Tim Cook — and other hand-picked lieutenants — were groomed by Jobs himself to eventually lead the company, let’s hope that there’s a young design genius that’s being mentored by Ives to help him and eventually be the one who comes up with designs that change the world.
But let’s hope that the new guy or gal doesn’t have to assume those duties for another, say, 10 or 20 years.
— Dennis Sellers