Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Jony Ive Was Involved in the Design of the New iMac

Jeremy White, Wired UK:

When Apple first revealed the new iMac’s styling in April, it was immediately apparent it had a design hit on its hands. Apple also knew what it was doing with the launch video. Multiple dancing 11.5mm-thin iMacs in green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue and silver pirouetted across the screen in a far from subtle reference to the original “Colours” ad for the old G3 iMac.

This, of course, was the iMac that made Jony Ive a household name. The friendly, accessible design and simplicity of use made this the Mac you actually wanted in your home. As the mission for the new iMac is pretty much the same, why not copy that ad?

But Apple has another reason to reference this old campaign. Jony Ive was involved in the design of this new iMac, despite having left Apple back in 2019. Hardware design is a long process, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Ive’s fingerprints are all over this new desktop. But, interestingly, Apple would not confirm or deny if he worked on the 2021 iMac after he left the company – just that he had worked on it.

Ever since Jony Ive stepped away from Apple two years ago, that vacuum has served as a sort of ink blot test into which many people can project their optimism or fears about the company. What does it mean that there is no longer an executive-level design person at Apple? Is the more colourful direction of recent products a result of Ive’s departure? Was the MacBook keyboard saved because Ive left? Now that Ive no longer works at Apple, will it regain a sense of whimsy and fewer compromises?

The sober reality is that Ive was not the only industrial designer at Apple, that the company’s products have always depended on the contributions of lots of people, and that the influence of Ive’s specific tendencies is more complicated than it may have appeared. That goes for this iMac, too — we do not know what Ive contributed and whether he was aware of the colours, but individual feelings about that will likely be based on individual views of Ive’s legacy. When the new MacBook Pro debuts with more than just a handful of USB-4 ports, there will be those who ascribe this to a lack of Ive influence, and that will be a mistake.

I still think it is dispiriting that there is not anyone on Apple’s leadership page directly responsible for design, but Apple shipped plenty of well-designed and iconic products before that position was added in 2006. I do not think it implies anything about the state of the company but, rather, an acknowledgement that Ive is, at least temporarily, irreplaceable.