Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

When Stephen Fry Met Jony Ive

Stephen Fry copped an exclusive interview1 with Jony Ive for the Telegraph, first announcing his brand new job title:

When I catch up with Ive alone, I ask him why he has seemingly relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control. “Well, I’m still in charge of both,” he says, “I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work which isn’t … which isn’t …”

“Which isn’t what you were put on this planet to do?”

“Exactly. Those two are as good as it gets. Richard was lead on the iPhone from the start. He saw it all the way through from prototypes to the first model we released. Alan has a genius for human interface design. So much of the Apple Watch’s operating system came from him. With those two in place I can …”

I could feel him avoiding the phrase “blue sky thinking”… think more freely?”

“Yes!”

Jony will travel more, he told me.

This segment of the interview has been used to prop up a fresh batch of the Jony Ive “deathwatch” posts and tweets. Russell Ivanovic:

So crazy idea: a year from now Jony Ive resigns from Apple. This promotion/vice president thing could be preparing for that?

Jeffrey Grossman:

Maybe I’m just paranoid, but Jony Ive being promoted to Chief Design Officer sure feels like the start of phasing himself out of Apple.

Seth Weintraub’s interpretation post for 9to5Mac even has “jony-ives-leaving-apple” as its slug, which, I think, is a bold implication.

There’s no question that this is a big, multifaceted step for Ive. He’s both gaining more responsibility by becoming a C-level executive,2 but he’s doing fewer tasks he doesn’t want to do. Therefore, he gets to do what he does best, and have the opportunity to spend more time back in the UK, where he seemingly feels more comfortable.

Similarly, there’s also no question that Jony Ive will not be at Apple forever. That much is obvious. I don’t think this necessarily marks the beginning of a short term transition for him away from the company, but I do think it helps define what he enjoys about working there, and equally what he does not enjoy. A move like this potentially gives him more incentive to stay at Apple for longer, not less. It’s a better compromise between his desires and the company’s.


  1. I must say that these interviews feel increasingly less exclusive. Steve Jobs used to grant a rare but powerful interview to one of a choice selection of publications, playing the role of Apple spokesperson extraordinaire. He was, of course, one-of-a-kind in this role.

    These days, it feels as though there’s been a concerted effort to get Ive to replace Jobs in the vast majority of interviews as the passionate spokesperson, with Cook adding his occasional corporate-level take. I think it works pretty well. Both of them are smart people who think before they speak. It’s a different tone, absolutely, but it better reflects the Apple of today. ↩︎

  2. Whether his compensation will now have to be disclosed is a matter for Apple and, ultimately, the SEC to decide. Expect the usual raft of hot takes and thinkpieces as to whether he is earning too much or way too much. ↩︎