updated 05:15 pm EDT, Tue April 3, 2012
Relationship with Jobs was key
The Financial Times has run a new profile of Apple's senior VP of Industrial Design, Jonathan Ive. Ive is often credited with the look and feel of Apple products; the Times comments, though, that Ive is "emerging from [Steve] Jobs' shadow," referring to the former Apple CEO's tendency to micromanage the details of products. An anonymous ex-Apple worker in fact tells the Times that Ive's "main talent was his ability to manage his relationship with Jobs."
The person adds that Ive exploited his connection with Jobs "for his own advancement," and claims he is a "very, very political person...You do not want to cross him or you lose pretty much everything."
A former Apple worker willing to go on record, Path CEO Dave Morin, paints a more positive image. "We have insane amounts of respect for him," he says. Morin notes that at an Apple meeting Ive once held, one worker complained about a part of the MacBook design being difficult for the disabled. Ive responded by saying the team had gone to considerable effort to make sure the computer could be operated with one finger, even to the extent of adjusting the screen's weight over the course of three months to make sure it could be opened with one finger without tipping the computer over.
Frog Design CEO Mark Rolston suggests that Ive is less a genius than someone who benefited from circumstance. "There are two schools of thought on this," he says. "One is that he is a transformational designer, someone who's transcended typical notions of quality and brought something really special to the market. A more complicated read is that he was the right man at the right time."
Morin comments that "Great products come from great partnerships between a designer and an entrepreneur," referring to the Ive-Jobs relationship.