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15 things we learned from The New Yorker's Jony Ive profile

15 things we learned from The New Yorker's Jony Ive profile

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It's not very often that Apple welcomes reporters through its doors, let alone allows them to spend a significant amount of time with some of its chief employees. But last year, The New Yorker had a chance to visit and speak with Jony Ive, Apple's design chief, and the magazine has just published a long profile of him. You can read the entire piece over at The New Yorker's website, but we've pulled out a few of the more interesting bits of information that we learned about Jony Ive, the Apple Watch, and more while reading through it:

Ive has a Banksy poster in his office

Decorations in Ive's office include: a Playmobil likeness of himself, a rugby ball, a design poster that ends with the phrase "think about all the fucking possibilities," and a Banksy print of the Queen overlaid with the face of a chimp.

Ive helped J.J. Abrams design Star Wars' new lightsaber

Though Abrams and his team created the initial design of the new lightsaber on their own, Ive gave Abrams some "very specific" suggestions after seeing it — and those suggestions will apparently factor into the final cut of the movie. Ive appears to have pushed for the weapon to be a bit more analog and primitive, "less precise and just a little bit more spitty," Abrams says. Ive apparently had no comment on the controversial cross guard.

Ive is into cars (and hates Toyotas)

This should fuel plenty of speculation now that Apple is reported to be working on a car. The New Yorker's profile says that both Ive and his design pal / new coworker Marc Newson are really into cars, but they're apparently pretty disappointed with what's currently on the road.

"There are some shocking cars on the road," Ive said. "One person’s car is another person’s scenery." To his right was a silver sedan with a jutting lower lip. Ive said, quietly, "For example." As the disgraced car fell behind, I asked Ive to critique its design: "It is baffling, isn’t it? It’s just nothing, isn’t it? It’s just insipid." He declined to name the model, muttering, "I don’t know, I don’t want to offend." (Toyota Echo.)

That's not even the only dig at Toyota in the piece. It also mentions:

Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice-president of operations, drives an old Toyota Camry. Ive’s verdict, according to Williams, is "Oh, God."

Ive owns an Aston Martin DB4, but he's currently riding around in a Bentley Mulsanne. Ive says that he loves Bentleys entirely because of their design. He also says that he's always been kind of torn about Bentleys' "other connotations" (presumably: implying that their owners are crazy rich).

Ive doesn't like Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography

Ive tells The New Yorker that he's only seen parts of the biography, but that it's enough for him to dislike it on the basis of inaccuracies. "My regard couldn’t be any lower," he said.

Ive (seemingly) isn't thrilled about the iPhone 6's camera bump

The iPhone 6's protruding camera lens is kind of annoying — and a little bit ugly — making it a surprising sight on a product out of Ive's lab. It's perhaps no surprise that Ive doesn't seem totally happy about its presence. He tells The New Yorker that it is "a really very pragmatic optimization." He continues: "And, yeah..."

Apple considered making a larger iPhone 4

It took Apple a long time — arguably, a bit too long — to get on board with the large cellphone trend. But according to Ive, Apple was thinking about it far earlier than the company actually began to make one. His studio had apparently designed a larger smartphone based on the iPhone 4, but the results were "clunky" and "uncompelling," so Apple never made it.

Ive doesn't care for Google Glass (and neither does Tim Cook)

This probably isn't a surprise, but Ive thinks that a smartwatch is a better solution for notifications than a display in your glasses.

When he later saw Google Glass, Ive said, it was evident to him that the face "was the wrong place." Cook said, "We always thought that glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them. They were intrusive, instead of pushing technology to the background, as we’ve always believed." He went on, "We always thought it would flop, and, you know, so far it has." He looked at the Apple Watch on his wrist. "This isn’t obnoxious. This isn’t building a barrier between you and me."Ive probably isn't a fan of Moto Maker

Ive asked The New Yorker not to name what product he's talking about here, but we can make a good guess:

In one of our conversations, Ive was scathing about a rival’s product, after asking me not to name it: "Their value proposition was ‘Make it whatever you want. You can choose whatever color you want.’ And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer."

Tim Cook may not love Beats' hardware design

Cook loves to talk about Beats Music and its playlists. We haven't heard him talk about Beats headphones very much. This might be the reason why:

When I spoke to Cook, he lauded Beats’ music-streaming service and its personnel before praising its hardware. "Would Jony have designed some of the products?" he said. "Obviously, you can look at them and say no." He went on, "But you’re not buying it for what it is—you’re buying it for what it can be."

The Apple Watch still needs some work

To conserve battery life, the Apple Watch's screen stays off until its wearer lifts their wrist up to look at it — but apparently Apple was far from perfecting this feature as of the watch's unveiling.

In the prototypes worn around the Cupertino campus at the end of last year, this feature was still glitchy. For Marc Newson, it took three attempts—an escalation of acting styles, from naturalism to melodrama—before his screen came to life.

The Apple Watch may eventually come in more materials

Ive tells The New Yorker that he believes people are "okay or okay to a degree" with carrying around the same phone as everyone else, but that people will not accept this with a product that they're going to wear around. That's why his lab decided to use different materials for different models of the Apple Watch, including aluminum, stainless steel, and gold. Notably, while discussing the materials that they've explored using, Ive adds, "We’ve not stopped."

An Ultrasuede cloth may come with some models of the Apple Watch

One designer in Ive's lab proposed including an "orangey-brown" color of the cloth with models of the gold Apple Watch. Ive dismissed the color choice as something you'd find in a cheap student apartment. The idea of including a cloth, however, appears to remain on the table.

The Apple Watch was always going to be rectangular

Watch enthusiasts may have been hoping for a classically styled circular watch, but Apple ended up unveiling a sightly rectangular one on stage last year. Apparently, that wasn't purely for technological reasons — Ive actually thinks that a circular face doesn't make sense for what you'll be doing on it. That's because a "huge part of the function is lists," he says, so "a circle doesn’t make any sense."

The Apple Watch prompted a store redesign

Angela Ahrendts, Apple's senior VP of retail and the former CEO of Burberry, is working on a redesign of Apple's retail stores ahead of the smartwatch launch. It's not stated how significant or slight these changes may be, but Apple clearly believes that a different experience is needed to sell a premium watch. As The New Yorker puts it, "These new spaces will surely become a more natural setting for vitrines filled with gold (and perhaps less welcoming, at least in some corners, to tourists and truants)."

The Apple Watch is more Ive's than any previous Apple product

That's according to Jeff Williams (who drives the Camry). Ive reportedly encountered resistance at Apple while pitching the Watch project: some at the company were concerned about how a watch would be displayed in stores; they were also worried that it might create a divide between more and less wealthy customers. Ive finally convinced Apple and formally began working on the smartwatch in fall of 2011, around the time the iPhone 4S was released.