Jony Ive & his design team esteemed as Apple's heart & soul in sweeping profile

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Apple design chief Jony Ive's transformation into the new face of the company continued this week with a flattering, far-reaching profile that considers him "one of the two most powerful people" at Apple and a reluctant standard bearer for Steve Jobs's legacy.

Writing for The New Yorker, Ian Parker paints a picture of Ive and his compatriots as a tight-knit group that somewhat hesitantly carries Apple's future success — or failure —  on their shoulders. One former member of the company's design team said that having one of the core team of 19 designers attend a meeting is "like being in church when the priest walks in."

The bar is reportedly set so high that the design group employs a team of three dedicated recruiters who may find just one designer good enough to work in the studio each year. Only two of Ive's employees have ever left.

Ive himself is classed as a modest leader, and one who is simultaneously uncomfortable and unflappable on the throne —  thankful for having been excused from public performances by late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, but not hesitant to voice his opinions. In one humorous example, he shot down an idea for the color of a microfiber cleaning cloth included with the Apple Watch Edition by comparing it to the carpet that might be included in a cheap apartment.

"Jony's an artist with an artist's temperament, and he'd be the first to tell you artists aren't supposed to be responsible for this kind of thing," Jobs's widow Laurene Powell Jobs said.

Ive's predecessor, Robert Brunner, believes that "Jony has assumed the creative soul of the company." Some say Ive seems "burdened" by that role.

"Jony has assumed the creative soul of the company," former Apple design czar Robert Brunner believes.

"He's got no choice, the poor guy. He really has to see it out, and I know it wasn't his plan. Which is not to say he's not enjoying it," Ive's friend Clive Grinyer said.

Apple operations head Jeff Williams described the forthcoming Apple Watch, on which the company's cachet and stock price —  if not its survival — depends, as a product owned by Ive more than any other. One notable example of his contributions is said to be the Watch's distinctive digital crown, which did not exist in engineering prototypes and was added by the design team.

The Watch is an example of Ive and his group's fanatical attention to detail and utter disdain for things that are badly designed. Ive and collaborator Marc Newson can "incite ourselves to a sort of fever pitch" on the subject, Ive said, especially things "developed to a schedule, to a cost" or "developed to be different, not better."

Of a Toyota Echo, Ive said "It is baffling, isn't it? It's just nothing, isn't it? It's just insipid."

Alongside the in-depth interviews with Ive, Parker secured some unusually candid answers from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Of the company's decision to increase the iPhone's display size, Cook said that "Jony didn't pull out of his butt the 4.7 and the 5.5." Those choices reportedly resulted from months of testing prototypes with display sizes at every tenth of an inch, with the largest well above 6 inches diagonally.

Speaking about Apple's new Beats unit, Cook was blunt: "Would Jony have designed some of the products? Obviously, you can look at them and say no."

Cook plans to allow Beats to "be true to who they are," however. "I don't want to wave the wand over them in a day and say, 'You are now Apple.' Down the road, we'll see what happens," he added.


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