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Apple's Design Guru Breaks Decades-Long Silence

Jony Ive, in his first-ever in-depth interview, shares a fascinating glimpse into Apple's hermetically sealed corporate culture.
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Though his exquisitely minimalist inventions have touched billions of lives across the globe, Apple ’s senior vice president of design, Jony Ive, has remained cloaked in mystery. This is due to both the hermetic secrecy of his employer and Ive’s own humility.

Until now. The Sunday Times conducted what it’s billing as the first-ever in-depth interview with Ive, 47, at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif.-headquarters last month. Here are four of the most fascinating things we learned about the architect behind Apple’s most revolutionary designs.

1. He prefers an “antiseptic” workspace. Ive works out of a corner design studio at 1 Infinite Loop that is adorned in beige concrete blocks and opaque glass. A large wooden bench within the open studio space showcases new product launches. Only Ive and his core team of 15 executives (culled from England, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) are allowed inside. Many of them have worked together for 15 to 20 years.

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2. He was a destructive -- and reconstructive -- child. As a kid, Ive looked up to his silversmith father, and spent much of his free time attempting to disassemble, and then reassemble, various household appliances. (He continues this habit with his iPhone today.) Even if consumers can’t actually see an aspect of the design -- that may or may not make any functional difference -- Apple still exerts tireless hours and spends additional resources in order to get the construction just right, he said.

3. He likes nice -- but simple -- stuff. Ive, his wife and their twin sons count only one residence -- in San Francisco’s posh Pacific Heights district. He collects point’n’shoot cars that are made from a single aluminum block, as well as luxury automobiles, including several Bentleys and an Aston Martin. Ive’s beverage of choice at the office? Earl Grey tea.

4. He disdains a copycat. “It’s theft,” Ive said of the dearth of iPhone copycats that have flooded the market since the smartphone’s debut. “What’s copied isn’t just a design, it’s thousands and thousands of hours of struggle.” Ive also noted that, in a world filled with “anonymous, poorly made objects,” the iPhone proved that consumers value aesthetics -- even at a substantial cost.

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For inspiration, he looks in unexpected places. While creating the original iMac, for instance, he worked with confectionery manufacturers to develop their colorful shells. He studied metalworkers in northern Japan to help hone the uber-thin titanium Powerbook.

4. He and Steve Jobs were well-suited partners. Steve Jobs’ brash and domineering reputation was complemented by Ive’s easy-going and self-deprecating nature. However, “When we were looking at objects, what our eyes physically saw and what we came to perceive were exactly the same,” Ive describes. “And we would ask the same questions, have the same curiosity about things.”

Though Jobs was tough, Ive says his portrayal in the media is largely exaggerated. “Yes, he had a surgically precise opinion. Yes, it could sting. Yes, he constantly questioned, ‘Is this good enough? Is this right?’ but he was so clever. His ideas were bold and magnificent. They could suck the air from the room.”

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