In the late 1990s, Apple was living on past glories, remembered for its invention of the first personal computer.
That all changed when the iMac, designed by British designer Jony Ive in 1998, and a host of revolutionary products in the following decade came to the market.
Now, Apple has announced that Ive is leaving the company after nearly 30 years.
Ive, one of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ most trusted creative collaborators, was instrumental in establishing Apple’s sleek design aesthetic as the brand’s chief design officer. Joining the company in 1992, Ive revived Apple’s fortunes, helping the tech giant to carve out its reputation for stylish, sought-after technology, and making it the most valuable company in the world.
“You could say that, you know, Jony’s design rigor helped make Apple the first trillion-dollar company,” Justin McGuirk, chief curator at London’s Design Museum, told CNN.
Ive was head of Apple’s design studio in 1996, but it was the candy-colored iMacs released in 1998 that helped Apple raise its fortune. Two million iMacs were sold in 1998, giving Apple its first profitable year since 1995.
“He comes to prominence in ’98 with the candy-colored iMacs, which were kind of fun and colorful and sexy, and all things that computing had not been for last for the prior 30-odd years. Computing had been kind of dull and gray and serious,” said McGuirk.
Ive’s most serious design phase, McGuirk said, came in the 2000s, the era of aluminum and soft edges. Apple released the iPod in 2001, iPod Mini in 2004, and the iPhone in 2007.
“In the 2000s, Jony developed the language of Apple, which became a kind of almost a kind of dogma in the tech world – this very kind of minimalist, modernist aesthetic derived from German modernism of the mid-20th century philosophy of reducing things to their absolute minimum, trying to make everything not just easy to use, but beautiful to hold and touch,” McGuirk said.
It was this desirability that helped make Apple the most valuable company in the world.
“It’s the way he controlled the design language rigorously across all the products, from laptops to iPhones to iPads. It all felt like it was coming from the same place, and it was sustained,” McGuirk added.
Apple’s MacBook Pro (2006), iPad (2010) and wearable technology like the Apple Watch (2015) are all strings to Ive’s bow, but it was the iPod, McGuirk argued, that was his crowning achievement.
“The iPod was just a hard drive until Jony Ive put a circular dial, a click dial on the front. And that’s what made it a music machine,” he said.
In 2007, Ive’s iPhone launched Apple to “stratospheric success,” McGuirk told CNN.
“One can’t just talk about this design, because really, it’s the touchscreen that made a kind of revolutionary step in technology. But he also made it something that people wanted to hold in their hands,” he added.
Ive told the Financial Times that he is starting a company based in California called LoveFrom that will focus on design as well as other creative projects for clients. The company will officially launch in 2020.