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Apple designer Jonathan Ive says current projects are his 'most important' work

While visiting his home country of the U.K. to be knighted, Apple design chief Jonathan Ive said in an interview that he will most likely be remembered for the projects he is currently working on because they feel like "the most important and the best work" that his team has ever done.

The Telegraph published a two-part interview (1, 2) with Ive on Wednesday, the day of his official knighting ceremony, as noted by The Next Web.

The interviewer questioned Ive as to which of his Apple designs he will most be remembered for.

"It’s a really tough one. A lot does seem to come back to the fact that what we’re working on now feels like the most important and the best work we’ve done, and so it would be what we’re working on right now, which of course I can’t tell you about," he said.

Author Shane Richmond went on to ask if Ive would tell the Queen of the U.K. that he couldn't comment if she asked about the design of the next iPhone. "That would be funny,” Ive said without answering the question.

Though Ive likely has a range of products in the pipeline, his comments will likely be interepreted as evidence toward a rumored Apple television. According to one report from early this year, Ive has a 50-inch prototype TV inside his well-guarded design studio.

Ive began working for Apple in 1992 before becoming the company's lead designer in 1997. He came to work so closely with late co-founder Steve Jobs that Jobs called him a "spiritual partner" in his biography. Jobs also said that he set up the company to give Ive so much "operational power" that no one else could tell him what to do.

Jonathan Ive


Last December, Ive was recognized by the U.K. for is "services to design and enterprise" with the title of Knight Commander of the British Empire. Ive said in his recent interview that the honor is "incredibly humbling."

Even after spending twenty years in California, Ive still ties his design aesthetic to the U.K's "remarkable tradition" for designing and making. He calls himself "the product of a very British design education.” Ive's father, a silversmith, first inspired him to become a designer.

Ive articulated his method as focusing on simplicity. “We try to develop products that seem somehow inevitable. That leave you with the sense that that’s the only possible solution that makes sense,” he said. “Our products are tools and we don’t want design to get in the way. We’re trying to bring simplicity and clarity, we’re trying to order the products."

Products that he and his team bring to market are meant to "speak to a set of values," Ive continued, adding that they are preoccupied with a "sense of care."

"What our products will not speak to is a schedule, what our products will not speak to is trying to respond to some corporate or competitive agenda. We’re very genuinely designing the best products that we can for people."

Still, Ive might not be completely satisfied with Apple's output. When asked about skeuomorphic design features like fake leather texture and stitching in iOS and OS X, he visibly winced in way that the interviewer interpreted as a "gesture of sympathy."

"My focus is very much working with the other teams on the product ideas and then developing the hardware and so that's our focus and that's our responsibility," Ive said. "In terms of those elements you're talking about, I'm not really connected to that."

Ive went on to say that he's careful about what products he lets out of the studio and into mass production. He remarked that deciding to abandon work on a project is an "important part" of his job.

According to the designer, his team spent a "significant percentage of the time" working on flagship products, like the iPod, iPhone and the iPad, without knowing whether it would be possible to solve the problems that they had set out to address. Conversely, other projects appeared to have solutions and reached a "very mature stage" before Ive realized that they wouldn't work.

"On a number of occasions we've actually all been honest with ourselves and said 'you know, this isn't good enough, we need to stop'. And that's very difficult," he said.

Ive was quick to credit his team for much of his success as a designer, noting that working with Apple's design team is "particularly precious" because many of the team members have worked together for over 15 years.

Apple Design Studio

Apple design chief Jonathan Ive somewhere in Apple's design studio | Source: Objectified

"There's a wonderful thing about learning as a group. A fundamental part of that is making mistakes together. There's no learning without trying lots of ideas and failing lots of times," he said.

Ive added that his team has become "rather addicted to learning as a group of people and trying to solve very difficult problems" together.

"We get enormous satisfaction from doing that. Particularly when you're sat on a plane and it appears that the majority of people are using something that you've collectively agonised over. It's a wonderful reward," he said.

Ive resisted the assertion that Apple would see a decline without Jobs at the helm. He asserted that a "large group" of Apple employees are developing products the same way they did "two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago."

For more of Ive's remarks, see Part One and Part Two of the The Telegraph's interview.