For Apple design chief Jony Ive, remembering the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is not possible without understanding the context of how we worked. It's been four years since Jobs' death, the anniversary for which was earlier this week. Ive said today at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco that recent films about Jobs don't grasp the whole picture. Instead, these efforts are hijacking Jobs legacy "with agendas that are different than those of your close family and your friends," he said.
Ive said that the "ridiculous things" that have been written about Jobs were not written with Apple's creative process in mind. "Try to remember what he was doing and that he was having arguments with chip designers on this side and thermal engineers on that side," he said. Ive added that Jobs' propensity for shutting people down was a product of his ability to focus. "It doesn’t mean that you're an asshole," he said. "It doesn’t mean that your hobby is arguing."
Jobs' ability to remove distraction and focus on creating something great was the one quality that stays wkrh Ive added. Perhaps it's not surprising for one of the world's most renowned designers to hone in on the quality of someone's focus.
How many times have you said no today?
"There wasn't this grand plan of winning or this complicated agenda. The simplicity was almost child-like in its purity and its truth," Ive recalled. He remembers Jobs' lessons in improving your focus, which included asking Ive how many times in the day he had said no to something he truly wanted to do or spend his time on. That practice of saying no is "profoundly uncomfortable," but Ive said it has remained with him as kind of art form for striving to reach Jobs' level.
Jobs and his legacy are currently being torn in multiple directions as high-profile films and documentaries begin examining his personal characteristics in all their complexity, from Jobs' propensity to be cruel to his inability to acknowledge his first-born daughter. The films, Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and Alex Gibney's documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, have inspired derision from Apple insiders.
Current CEO Tim Cook called the works "opportunistic." Jobs' wife Laurene Powell Jobs actively tried to bring the Boyle biopic starring Michael Fassbender to a halt, going so far as calling up prospective leads Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale and advising them not to take the job.
"I don't recognize this person."
Ive said he hasn't seen the films, but knows others who have. "There are sons and daughters and widows and very close friends that are completely bemused and completely upset," he said. "We’re remembering and celebrating Steve Jobs' life and at the same time there is this perfectly timed movie and I don’t recognize this person." Ive said Jobs "had his triumph and his tragedies like us all," but now he his having his "identity described, defined by a whole bunch of other people and I think that’s a bit of a struggle personally."
Ive appears to reject the notion that Jobs should be defined as a ruthless businessman who used cutthroat tactics even against his own employees. "I was very aware that he certainly had a sense of the civic responsibility to make something good and that you can somehow make a contribution to humanity and to culture," Ive said. "I just think it’s important to remember that you could have somebody that didn’t ever argue, but you wouldn’t have the phone you have now."