Apple's chief designer Jonathan Ive is back home in the UK today, preparing to receive a knighthood in recognition for his contributions to design and enterprise. Like most of his colleagues at the secretive Cupertino company, Ive is rarely seen or heard from in public, but his current visit to his homeland has been accompanied by a thoroughgoing interview with The Daily Telegraph. In it, Ive acknowledges the great debt of gratitude he feels toward his father, a teacher by trade who Ive describes as "a very good craftsman" that would build furniture and silverware all by himself. It was in watching his father work that young Jony developed an appreciation for the attention to detail and quality that would later come to mark his work — in his words, it's important to "finish the back of the drawer" not because anyone will see or appreciate it, but because you "think it's right."
If those words sound familiar, it might be because they echo what Steve Jobs said in his Walter Isaacson-authored biography about the influence of his own father. It was important to Jobs' father to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden: "he even cared about the look of the parts you couldn't see."
The soon-to-be Sir Jony Ive also goes into more detail about Apple's product design philosophy, emphasizing that the company strives to "develop products that seem somehow inevitable. That leave you with the sense that that’s the only possible solution that makes sense." It's hardly a humble goal to pursue, but the man himself continues to exude an air of modesty, consistently speaking in plural terms when talking about the work of his team, rather than himself, and describing his own achievements as "the product of a very British design education."
"What we’re working on now feels like the most important and the best work we’ve done."
When asked about what he considers his favorite design produced while working for Apple, Ive actually turns to the present, answering that "what we’re working on now feels like the most important and the best work we’ve done." In other words, the most important product for Jony Ive is the next one, with all his energies and thoughts focused on making it better than what has come before.