I love industrial design and have as long as I can remember. As a child, I broke my dad's Braun electric shaver that played with the disc that raised and lowered the leaves because the action was so cool and "clicky". At school, I dreamed of being either a product designer or an architect.
These dreams were dashed when I flunked technical drawing (I was out with over 4 cm and the test's tolerance was less than 0.5 cm) and failed physics and math exams, both of which are decisive for designing beautiful non-fall buildings down. So in the last 30 years my inner industrial designer has lived vicariously through his career in my contemporaries (he is just a few years younger than me) and fellow Sir Jony Ive.
Ive been an industrial product designer "cool." Stop someone on the street and ask them to name a famous industrial designer, and I would risk a guess that if they have an answer at all, it would be Jony Ive.
Yes, there are many other influential industrial designers. Yves Béhar and Dieter Rams ̵
Not only have Ive designed any of those Most iconic Apple products created over the last 30 years – the iMac, iPod and iPhone to name a few – the successes of these products have directly affected the lives of millions of people and have changed how they perceive the importance of great industrial design as a result .
If you were just asking the question "about the Jony Ive designed a [insert product here]", most would be able to visualize exactly what this product would look like: minimal design, clean shape, functional tool and a plentiful use of aluminum. It's remarkable.
Furthermore, this gratitude for good product design has made it a core concept of commercial success for any technical product in today's market. I would argue that Microsoft's remarkable resurgence with the surface under Satya Nadella is at least partly a result of his willingness to embrace the importance of pure-design design as a defining brand value of the company. It doesn't just copy Apple: Surface Studio and Surface Pro are beautifully designed by themselves, and they are also unique to Microsoft. The same can be said of the Pixelbook that is particular Google, or even the Galaxy S10 Plus which is unmistakably Samsung (the Bixby button is a dead give away).
And the rising value of great product design is not only limited to companies working in the field of consumer technology. Back in 2006, when I photographed the interior of Virgin America's brand new aircraft, I remember how often we compared the design language to the seats and lighting of Apple and Ive. Without Virgin America's mood lighting or 50 channels of entertainment, I doubt JetBlue would have followed so closely, let alone American Airlines. The same can be said for cars. Look at the interior design of many cars in 2019, and I think you can clearly see hints of Ive's influence.
Of course, I do not say that Jony Ive is directly responsible for a better airplane experience or a more imaginative and functional car dashboard. But I say it is a result of Ive's undeniable influence that many companies now see good design as a more important component to their success than they did 30 years ago.
Nor do I say that everything that Ive ever created has been amazing. During his time at Apple he also produced some real lemons (Newton, the cube, "trashcan" MacPro and iOS 7 immediately to mind). But that fallability makes me just respect his biggest hit even more. At least he tried something different and new.
But while the broader and real adoption of good industrial design practices undoubtedly benefits both the consumers and the design fans, it may be rather ironic that the one company that has suffered the most has been Apple (but not economical). This can explain Ive's departure.
As Buddy Pine says in the movie The Incredibles "if everyone is super, then no one is." 30 years ago, Jony Ives design aesthetics and partnerships with Steve Jobs made Apple's products stand head and shoulders above almost anything else available. They were truly revolutionary. IMac was a joyful transparent blue, orange or magenta PC when all other computer manufacturer's offerings were a beige box; The iPod was gorgeously lumpy with a practical, childish simplicity in the operation that put "a thousand songs in the pocket." And as for the first iPhone. Well, let me just say that when it comes to design, I think it's still the best iPhone far.
But in 2019, it is extremely difficult to continuously maintain that level of game changing impact. It is very difficult to lead from the front. Apple has found it challenging to encourage its user base to update to the relatively iterative new design of the iPhone X and XS. I'm not surprised it's cautious to introduce something too revolutionary. Apple is caught in a trap of its own making: critics demand that Apple is the bold, brave brand we've come to expect, but users are just fine with it as long as everything works exactly the same. We move into a hardware world where seamless functionality across multiple devices is important and good design is considered a given.
For me personally, Apple's products no longer define milestone moments in my life as they once did. In recent years, these sites have been taken by products made by Google, Nintendo and Sony. I have no doubt that the designers of all of them were influenced by Ive in some way or form, but it does not change the fact that the only Apple products I own today are an old Apple TV and the laptop I was delivered by The Verge .
I've moved from Apple and I'm looking for new brands for design inspiration. Maybe Jony decided to do the same.
Photograph by James Bareham / The Verge