Sul Telegraph, all’indirizzo http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/11/19/nive19.xml&sSheet=/news/2005/11/19/ixnewstop.html possiamo trovare una bella intervista a Jonathan Ive, il disegnatore dell’iMac e dell’iPod.
Ecco cosa dice l’intervista:
here are two things you need to know about Jonathan Ive, inventor of the iPod music player and the iMac computer. First, he is the most important British industrial designer of our time. He changed the way millions listen to music and helped liberate computers from dull beige boxes.
Second, he is rather shy. He may be one of Britain’s hottest exports, but he does not usually do interviews.
Jonathan Ive has changed the way we listen to music
“Don’t ask any personal questions,” the marketing man from Apple warned. “He doesn’t like personal profiles. Talk about design, but stay away from questions about his background.”
Am I allowed to ask his age? A pause. A slightly menacing one. “To me, that sounds like you want to do a personal profile.”
It is all a bit odd really. It is the sort of instruction normally given before an audience with the Pope, or even Cherie Blair, rather than a chat with a designer at a computer company.
But then Ive is no ordinary designer and Apple is no ordinary company. The Essex expat is responsible for some of the most iconic gadgets of the last decade.
In 1998, as head of design at Apple in San Francisco, he revolutionised computer design, and helped reverse the company’s failing fortunes, with the original iMac – a computer placed inside a coloured translucent television.
It was followed by increasingly clever updates – an iMac that looked like an angle poise lamp and one that looked like a flat LCD television screen.
And then came the iPod. At the turn of the millennium Ive and his team of designers realised they could fit a computer hard drive into a box the size of a deck of playing cards and use it to store thousands of songs. For the first time it was possible to carry your music collection in your pocket.
Its success was not just down to clever electronics. Critics said it looked fantastic and was ridiculously easy to use. Much copied, but never bettered, there are 30 million iPods out there today.
After all the pre-interview warnings, it is a bit of a shock to meet Jonathan Ive in the flesh. He is a personable, charming and relaxed figure in his late 30s (actually he is 38 but don’t tell the Apple PR people) with cropped black hair, jeans and a quietly fashionable jacket and open shirt.
He speaks quietly and thoughtfully, with the slightest touch of Estuary English.
And despite the tendency to slip into “corporate-speak” – presumably as he remembers he is not just the world’s most influential designer, but also the senior vice president of one of the world’s biggest computer companies – he obviously believes he has the best job in the world.
Ive talks down his key role in “inventing” the iPod and iMac, stressing the contribution of the manufacturing, software, hardware and electronic teams in his charge.
“Our goals are simple. We genuinely try to make the very best product that we can. We have a belief that we can solve our problems and make products better and better. It’s a simple goal to articulate, but a difficult one to achieve.”
Ive grew up in Chingford, Essex, the son a teacher turned school inspector. He studied design at Newcastle Polytechnic and, in 1989, he became a partner at Tangerine, a London design consultancy working on, among other things, wash basins and power tools. In 1992 he attracted the attention of Apple and moved to California.
He is fiercely protective of his privacy and details of his lifestyle are scarce. He lives in a two bedroom house in Twin Peaks with his wife Heather – a writer and historian he met in England.
He enjoys the company of musicians and loves music, getting British friends to keep him up to date with latest bands. His one concession to luxury appears to be his Aston Martin.
Ive’s reticence has added to the fascination about the man, particularly among the millions of Apple devotees.
That devotion comes from Ive’s and Apple’s philosophy that their computers and music players should be simple to use and beautiful to look at.
Apple does not do video players, but if it did you would no longer need an 11-year-old to programme them for you. They would be easy, intuitive. And probably white.
The fans say each product just seems to get better. The latest Apple range included the “impossibly small” iPod Nano, the first video iPod and a new iMac – a powerful computer and home entertainment system crammed into the casing of a flat screen television.
There are common threads in Ive’s and his team’s design. There’s a love of white plastic and a hatred of clutter. You will be hard pressed to find a visible screw, or an unnecessary button on an Ive-designed product.
The remote control that comes with the new iMac, for instance, does a dozen functions with one large button. The nearest rival’s remote control has at least 40.
Ive – who says he gets his inspiration from the everyday stuff that surrounds him – believes that design and ease of use are as important as function. Part of that ease of use comes from obsessive attention to detail.
Put Ive in front of one of his iMac babies and his enthusiasm is infectious. “Look at this. When you put it to sleep – suddenly there’s a small white light that appears on the front. But you only see that there’s a light there when it’s switched on. If it’s not switched on, there’s no need to see it.”
He tilts the heavy screen back and forth effortlessly with a finger. “Now this was very difficult to get right.”
The team spent months getting the hinge connecting the base to the screen perfectly balanced so it stayed in position.
Even the material for the metal base was specially designed so that the machine did not slip when the screen was being tilted back. The material was essential because Ive does not like rubber feet on his creations.
Worried about losing the remote control? Ive’s version has a magnet inside so it sticks to the side of the computer. Hate ugly silver stickers on the back? Serial numbers are etched on the casing instead.
“What you and I are left to deal with are the things we care about. All of the stuff that makes this technology possible is resolved in a way that doesn’t force you to deal with it. We are left with this gorgeous display. I love the way this solves lots of problems in such a calm and serene way.”
The aim, he says, is to create gadgets that can be used without looking at the instruction book.
So why is so much stuff out there so badly designed? Why is it so hard to programme a video or change the clock on the microwave oven?
“It’s sad and frustrating that we are surrounded by products that seem to testify to a complete lack of care. That’s an interesting thing about an object. One object speaks volumes about the company that produced it and its values and priorities.”
He may not be a household name, but he is not quite the unsung hero of British design. In the last few years he has won a host of awards – including the Royal Academy of Engineering president’s medal and the London Design Museum’s designer of the year.
You can sense that he is delighted – if a little bemused – by the plaudits and praise. But what gives him his greatest kick is when people give him their iPod stories – when they tell him that his invention has let them rediscover lost music of their youth, or when it has let them fall in love with music again.
“What’s really great is when you talk to a friend or someone you don’t know comes up and wants to talk about what the iPod meant for them. That’s really fantastic,” he says.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the music.”