Well, that was interesting. After nearly 30 years at Apple, Jony Ive leaves the company to start his own company, LoveFrom, with his friend and frequent colleague Marc Newson – and leaves Apple too. The reaction to this news was predictably histrionic by Apple observers and the press.
To sum up:
- Jony was checked out, incompetent or just lazy
- Apple is doomed to fail
If these stories look contradictory, then you have eyes.
If you take the sum of the breathless (dare I say thirsty) stories that sum up a series of anecdotes about Jony's past years, try painting it a picture of a legendary design figure, the team and the company at whose He was involved, left behind, which led to a stagnation of progress ̵
Ok.  Ironically (or perhaps inevitably) even the wording of the tweets that accompanied these stories was formulated in an inflammatory position. Tim Cook's e-mail (actually quite very clear ) was touted as "devastating". The Journal asked the question : "Why has not Apple had a successful product for years?" A look at the internal drama about the departure of his chief designer helps with the explanation. "A conclusion to which his story only points.
Most of the company's observers I know asked and listened to Apple people over the past few years are aware that Jony has borrowed time for the company. Shocking, that was not – it was a surprise that it was always guaranteed how much control Jony keeps on how and when he prints. Already in 2015 was clear that Jony wanted to do less pushing paper and more pencil shifts. And Apple's past decade was nothing but an explosion of management challenges. Huge growth in product volume, fragmented product lines that tried to leave less space under the price and functional roof, and many more people.
"Many of Apple's critics are purely nostalgic," says Ben Bajarin of creative strategies. "I wanted Apple to return to the time when some of the designs were bolder, more iconic, and possibly more polarizing, but during that time Apple sold tens of millions of products, not hundreds of millions. This is a crucial point that many people miss in public.
All this growth means that someone else's work, like Jony, shifted from a pencil around a drawing board to a kind of management – or, in Apple's case, lesson.
I'm not the one of the journal (or one So, I will not fish the stories that came out about Jony and his work habits, I've never been so good at it, and I do not really stomach it these days As these anecdotes are kept together in a narrative.
Having worked closely with the company for years, I know many people involved in some of these situations, and Jony actually moved to hold design meetings at his home in SF He has a design studio in other houses like Hawaii and London spent more time in the city in recent years than at Apple's headquarters. The design teams inside and outside the industrial designers saw absolutely less of him than before.
The various stories of the last days also contain parts and pieces that, as I understand them, are not correct. or presented in a precise context. More importantly, nobody I know felt Jony had left or checked out the team.
As he himself said, Jony was just tired. Which productive designer you know is looking forward to more management and less design?
In addition, I completely reject the narrative that Apple somehow failed because Jony was absent. During the period, the company has delivered some very successful products, including the Apple Watch, which was successful in the main category . As a comment, I found the criticism that Jony wanted a gold watch so that the Apple Watch became a joker.
The Golden Watch had two distinct purposes:
- Jony Wanted to Do It
- Expect that this was a product worth carrying, all day long, Apple's egalitarian computer-related ideals. But the fact is, no matter how many were sold, it caused a sensation and actually led Apple into the world of fashion and portable entertainment that has never been before.
hold gave them time to figure out what the watch was meant for, and it's a very real achievement for the company. During the same period, Apple shipped the iPhone X months before the scheduled time and completely overhauled all product lines, including the iMac.
I can safely understand that one or more members of the design team missed the lack of annoying intimate one-on-one interviews Jony had with the team earlier when Apple delivered fewer products in less time. And not all of Jony's influence in recent years is flawless in hindsight. The MacBook keyboards are still puking, I'll give you these.
Basically every design is worthy of criticism, and Jony is not beyond that. If something does not work consistently or feels human, it does not matter if Dieter Rams designed it himself in the 1950s, it's crap.
But the argument that Jony derails the product from Apple looks like complete nonsense when looking at the facts. And every member of the design team I've talked to in the past 4 years has said that Jony, though he was sometimes difficult, demanding and intense, was also a huge driving force when it came time, resources and to use the energy they needed to bring a product or function to the desired level. Resources such as on-site materials consulting in China, working with artists around the world, exploring the impact of a design – the willingness to do the best in finding a solution. Nothing was lost.
That is, if Jony does not feel like managing, guess what Jony will not be excited about. As Shel Silverstein put it, "If you need to dry the dishes and drop one on the ground, you may not be able to dry off."
There's no doubt that what a leader does is calculus companies say publicly – but I think you can believe Jony when he says he feels useful elsewhere.
"Certainly I have an ambition and almost a moral obligation to be useful," he says in this FT piece. "I am fortunate enough to have been working with remarkable people for the past 30+ years, working on some very interesting projects and solving some very difficult issues." I am fully aware of the responsibility to do something significant with this learning. "
He wants to get out, and that's exactly what he does, but he's not leaving the company in terrible shape either from an overall viewpoint or an internal viewpoint."
Let's get away from the anecdote, which is more interesting to me as all that has to do with Jony is where Apple's design goes from here.
Apple blamed Evans Hankey and Alan Dye for the design and reported Jeff Williams on anything you want to Apple to make an operating company, but where have you been in the last 10 years?
Yes, Apple is now another company, and it should be. While Jony has done us some amazing work over the years (and some amazing, what the hell) has done, it will be fascinating to see a new leader tackle the next era at Apple.
announce a single "Jony Replacement" at this point, an immediate comparison would make him It will probably give the team time to find a new center and direction in the next few years. I think someday somebody will appear here as a design manager, but I'm not sure who.
Evans was, as I understand it, chosen by Jony to lead the ID team as a manager, a job she has already done. She is a capable design manager with hundreds of patents. More importantly, Apple is pursuing a historical and systematic policy whereby employees not only do a job, but also learn and teach from them. Apple's approach is institutionalized and taught to new employees.
I believe this institutional fabric will survive Jony.
One of the things that struck me most about many of the recent stories is that it painted the members of the design team as sparkling clean automatons that could not go on without Jony approving of any movement. That is not true and frankly not possible. Apple could not keep to the timetable they've been following in recent years if Jony is late.
There are a lot of very smart and very talented people at Apple, and they are not all named Jony.
I am also very interested to see how Alan Dye copes with Apple. He has a quiet, restrained presence in person that may seem a bit flat, but he is clearly very committed to the task. He is respected by Apple designers, who feel that his work speaks for itself and that he is ahead of the game. One of Dye's main responsibilities was to standardize the look and feel of iOS on its typographic platforms, as in San Francisco.
One of the biggest potholes the software design team ever hit iOS 7 for legitimate reasons was a break with the past, like extending iOS to new platforms like the car, the clock, and beyond out. But Jony brought in print and not interaction designers from other parts of Apple to perfect the final design, and that turned out to be a radically new but radically less usable iOS.
iOS 7 has always reminded me I've heard of an apocryphal saying, but I can not remember where. It's about the notoriously difficult to drive Porsche 911: Porsche made a nice mistake and spent 50 years fixing it.
The 911 was a car that should be unbalanced from the beginning by placing the engine at the rear. Emphasize the power transfer to the ground through weight and traction. Also no joke, so you can still put food in it.
Unfortunately, it also allowed massive oversteer, with the car swinging in curves incredibly sudden when it was pressed too hard. Porsche has evolved this design with each iteration and improved all other aspects of the vehicle such as traction, larger wheelbase, steering, brakes and transmission. Just to bring it to a place where the original vision has been preserved, but you know, less fire and dying.
Apple has been doing almost the same thing since iOS 7, adopting a concept that it deemed necessary, and moving it further back to a location that feels more user-friendly.
One of the things that struck me at the time was that iOS 7 featured a "slice of glass" metaphor. They were not that explicit at the time, but it seemed clear to me that they saw this as a way to support all kinds of interfaces from Palm First to Heads Up. A further development of the information appliance.
Dye and the design team (and Jony, tbf) have made great strides in solving the mechanical issues in recent years, but it was very exciting for me to see the glass metaphor slices on the WWDC this year , This time, it's just areas of depth, texture, and hopefully more accessible context.
Although Jony is a unicorn designer, Apple has always developed well in small teams of decision makers, and they are not all one person. The structure of Apple, which does not rely on product managers, still leaves tremendous power in the hands of the people who actually do the work. I am not as worried as many people are worried that leaving Jony will suddenly lead to a slavery of the needs of "Ops over all". It is not included in the DNA.
The does not mean that there are no question marks yet. Jony was a tremendous force in this company. It's natural to be curious, excited, and, damn, worried about what will be his departure from the design-driven, Apple-beloved person.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm hoping for a balance between the established patterns of Apple design and the new ways of thinking can be produced. No company should be completely rooted in the past. At the moment, things are happening in design and production that are incredibly interesting. Trends such as programmatic or "AI" design that allow designers to define an algorithm and a set of constraints and then create "impossible" shapes from edged materials to produce a result that can not be sketched or modeled using traditional techniques.
The above shoe is a collaboration between an artist and an algorithm. Daniel Arsham, Adidas and a startup called Carbon did so with the help of a design program that understands the goals and materials of his work, but describes his own path there. This is the new school of design.
The compaction of the design and manufacturing stacks in one segment will, in my opinion, be the defining feature of this product development era. Apple has to jump on this wave and ride on it.
There is a Steve quote on the wall of the Infinite Loop 4 building in the old Cupertino Central.
"I think if you do something, it turns out to be pretty good, then you should do something wonderful and not stay down too long. Just find out what's next. "
I'd like to see Apple's design teams doing exactly that, using these new thinking and finding ways to integrate them into the way it has always worked." There has not been a more intriguing time in recent years Whatever happens, it does not get boring.