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Jony Ive remembers Steve Jobs' 'simple focus' on creating the beautiful and great

Adding his voice to recent remembrances of late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, company CDO Jony Ive told attendees of the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit that his memory of Jobs has been distilled over the four years since his death.


Apple CDO Jony Ive. | Source: Vanity Fair


Ive, sharing the stage with director J.J. Abrams and producer Brian Grazer at the summit's final panel on Wednesday, explained the intervening years helped mute a cacophony of opinion and criticism — positive and negative — that grew from a larger public interest to understand who Jobs was. After Jobs died in 2011, Ive initially hit a "wall of grief" clouded by a jumble of emotions, but that slowly passed.

"In thinking of him then, there was this incredible complexity of all his attributes," Ive said. "What has been very surprising, is that over the four years that have passed, so much of that noise, and so many of his attributes, they've ended up essentially receding. And what's left is...just him."

After four years of processing the loss, what Ive remembers is Jobs' simple, pure worldview, a sentiment shared by many who were close to him.

"Quite honestly, what's remained, I never would have predicted four years ago," he said. "What's remained is almost unremarkable, but what's remained is his very simple focus on trying to make something beautiful and great. And it really was simple. There wasn't a grand plan of winning, or a very complicated agenda. That simplicity seemed almost childlike in its purity. And it's true."

Since his death, Jobs has been the subject of numerous biographies and films, some of which cast the late tech guru in a less than favorable light. Foremost in people's minds at the moment is a dramatic interpretation of Walter Isaacson's official Jobs biography from Oscar winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. While not discussed openly onstage, Ive referenced the film and other like it, saying the way Jobs is "frequently and popularly portrayed at the moment" stands in contrast to his memory of the man.

"I don't think I've ever seen anyone so happy, as I saw him — this very simple kind of joy — when he would realize, 'This is actually working out. This could be great.' It was just the simplicity of that," Ive said.

Finally, Ive said getting promoted to chief design officer has afforded him opportunities to dabble in other areas of design, specifically Apple's retail stores and Campus 2 headquarters.

"I haven't felt this happy and creative in years," he said.

Ive's appearance followed a panel in which Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine discussed freemium sales models and the intersection of tech and music.