In an interview in arch design magazine Wallpaper, former Apple Chief Design Sir Jonny Ive reminisces about advice given to him by company founder Steve Jobs. He also expresses his anger that many designs today don’t work the way he and Jobs did at Apple, and are all the poorer for it – going so far as to claim that “many products don’t deserve to exist.”
Ive is described in the interview as “unfailingly polite, concerned and thoughtful”, but often describes his design process as “furious” and “angry”, especially with regard to design’s response to climate change on which he has worked with Prince Charles, the Prince. from Wales.
I left Apple in 2019 to start his own design consultancy and recently severed all ties with Apple. However, he still remembers the one word Jobs told him in everything he designs: care.
Ive was not only Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) but also Royal Designer for Industry and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering for the past ten years. His most recent design isn’t quite on the scale of the iPhone: the seal for Prince of Wales’s Terra Carta campaign, whose motto is “For Nature, People and Planet.” The stamp was designed by Ive using a specially drawn Baskerville-derived serif font that he reserves for his personal projects.
Based on the famous royal charter of rights, the Magna Carta, which was forcibly signed in 1215 by Prince Charles’ distant relative, King John, Terra Carta is a mandate that puts sustainability at the heart of the private sector. It is intended to guide companies to avert climate catastrophes in the belief that capitalism and enlightened self-interest are compatible with saving the planet.
While all this royal talk may sound archaic, Wallpaper reports that, despite its Latin name, Terra Carta is written in the language of modern management theory and looks at areas of green investment, such as electric flight, carbon-neutral construction and nuclear fission. Ive helps Prince Charles advise the four winners of the £200,000 ($240,000) sustainable markets initiative to bring their projects to market. The two teamed up after Ive suggested establishing a design lab at the Royal College of Art (RCA), of which he is chancellor.
‘Care’ is the key to design
Despite all his accolades, Ive is furious when he talks about design. “I am angry that most of what is made seems so thoughtless. So many products don’t deserve to exist. The minimum they have to do to justify themselves and consume all that material is that their designers care about them.”
“We have lost sight of how recent industrialization is. Unlike architecture, design is still a new profession. It was developed by putting a design firm on top of a factory, then discovering the authorship and still trying to understand the equation.”
“When you design, you have to have a thorough knowledge of materials, otherwise you will end up with broken form development. … You often hear people apologizing that things weren’t made the way they wanted. I understand that excuse, but at Apple I’ve spent months in production sites and my apology would have been worthless.”
He remembers the time he spent discussing design with Jobs and how one word defined everything he helped create. “Steve told me, ‘If you make something with care, even if you don’t know who the people are using it, they will feel it. Care is a way of expressing our love for the species.’”
And Ive still uses that advice today. “If designed and made with care, a mass-produced object can have the resonances of a series production. It comes down to motivation and the sacrifices you make for the exercise.”