updated 10:00 pm EDT, Mon October 24, 2011
The pair worked closely, particularly on packaging
As more details and tidbits from the Walter Isaacson-penned biography of Steve Jobs pour out, one of the voices not much mentioned in early reports but who plays an increasingly prominent role at Apple is that of the man Jobs often described as his "best friend" and which Isaacson refers to as his "soul mate," Apple Vice President of Design Jonathan "Jony" Ive. The picture he paints of Jobs is one of a close friend, relentless manager, and a bit of a credit-stealer.
While most people who follow Apple closely are well aware that it is Ive and his team, not Jobs, that come up with most of the product designs, the general public and particularly pundits often rush to give Jobs more credit that he deserves for many of the innovations -- even though Jobs did indeed play an integral role in nearly every design decision Apple made, according to Ive. Still, Jobs was willing to take the credit for many of the designs, either by omission of fact or via those who foisted credit on him. Despite his frustrations on receiving what he thought was proper credit, Ive praised Jobs highly for both inspiring him and his designers as well as working closely with them to ensure that the ideas become reality.
"The ideas that come from me and my team would have been completely irrelevant, nowhere, if Steve hadn't been there to push us, work with us, and drive through all the resistance to turn our ideas into products," Ive is quoted as saying in the book, indirectly echoing some of the stories Steve Wozniak has told of Jobs when the two of them worked together. According to Jobs' wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, Ive and Jobs enjoyed a close relationship that, like Jobs' relationship with Tim Cook, allowed them to chat at a very high collegial level rather than the cantankerous demeanor Jobs would often take with underlings.
Signs of Jobs' special regard for Ive are highly evident at Apple, according to Isaacson. Ive works in a special "bunker-like" office at Two Infinite Loop that features tinted windows and is well-guarded. Even high-level Apple executives needed special permission to enter, and the "cavernous" room that housed Ive and his team of designers featured tables that contained prototypes for "the next three years" worth of Apple products. Jobs allegedly left instructions that Ive was to be left alone by other execs and report only to Cook. Jobs and Ive would lunch together "nearly every day" and often walk around the design studio.
Ive recalls that Jobs would often return, again and again, to the question of functionality and simplicity. "Do we need this part?" Jobs would ask Ive. "Can we get it to perform the function of the other four parts?" Ive and Jobs were also fixated on packaging, considering it an essential part of the overall experience. "Packaging can be theater," Ive said. "It can create a story."
Though Ive was occasionally frustrated that his team didn't get enough credit for their work, Ive remembered Jobs during the celebration of Steve's life and memorial held for Apple employees by calling Jobs "my closest and my most loyal friend." He mentioned that Jobs would often call him and start the conversation with "here's a dopey idea ..." to which Ive added "and sometimes they were. Really dopey," to laughter from the audience. "Sometimes, they were truly dreadful ... but sometimes, they took the air from the room, and they left us both completely silent. Bold, crazy, magnificent ideas ... or quiet, simple ones ... [which] were utterly profound."
Ive went on to say that as much as Jobs loved ideas and loved making products, "he treated the process of creativity with a rare and wonderful reverence ... we worked together for nearly 15 years, and he still laughed at the way I said 'alu-minium,'" referring to the British pronunciation.