Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Jonathan Ive Interview

The Sunday Times yesterday published an in-depth interview with Jonathan Ive, but it was behind a paywall. Time has now published a copy of the story not behind a paywall and it’s, well, an okay interview. In many places, interviewer John Arlidge resorts to tech journalist tropes:

But critics complain about the built-in obsolescence of Apple products, its hermetically sealed operating systems, the need to buy new chargers for new products and the prices it charges. Oh, the prices! $20 for a plastic charger that probably costs less than $2 to make!

Or, take this:

Since Jobs died, Apple has hit a rough patch, at least by its ludicrously high standards. It has not had a break-out hit. There has been no Apple TV set to revolutionize home entertainment. No spiffy watch. (Yet.) The firm’s share price has slumped and it has lost its title of the world’s most valuable firm. Some speculate that, without Jobs, Apple has lost its golden touch.

There’s arguably reasonable justification for including this commentary: Apple, of course, hasn’t launched an all new category since the iPad, and the legacy of Jobs is obvious and irreplaceable. But these tropes illustrate that there’s a disconnect between what some journalists want Apple to be (a lucky fluke) and what it actually is (smart).

There are other points of contention, too — Arlidge writes “[the] titanium Powerbook, the first lightweight aluminum laptop …”, which is just boneheaded. But the interview includes gems of quotes from Ive, like this one:

“We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made. We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things. our success is a victory for purity, integrity — for giving a damn.”

Design is what Apple knows very well, and it’s not a superfluous thing. It requires a comprehensive understanding of people, materials, behaviour, and so much more. This is what so many fail to understand about design, and it’s why so many tech journalists scoffed when the iPod, iPhone, and iPad were introduced. And, they’ll do it again when Apple introduces its next product because it won’t stack up in a feature checklist. But Ive gets it, and Apple’s customers have proved that they get it, too.