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Jonathan Ive Essay

I. History of the Apple

Apple Inc. came to exist in Cupertino, California on April 1, 1976 and incorporated January 3, 1977. The company manufactures consumer electronics and software products. Its most famous hardware products are Macintosh computers, the iPod and the iPhone.

Apple was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. At the time it was first established, it sold Apple I personal computer kit. In 1977, Apple was incorporated but Wayne sold his share to Jobs and Wozniak for a measly $800. The company was funded by multimillionaire A.C. “Mike” Markkula.

As Apple expanded, they lured Pepsi-Cola CEO John Sculley to join them and become Apple’s CEO. On January 24, 1984, Jobs introduced Macintosh to the public. Macintosh went on to become the first small computer to be commercially successful using graphical user interface. Jef Raskin developed the Mac and later on, replaced by Jobs.

Jobs however received flak from his temperamental nature. The computer industry including Apple suffered a slump in sales in 1984. This caused friction between Sculley and Jobs. May 1985, Jobs was evicted from his job as head of Macintosh Division.

Apple then introduced PowerBook which generated profits for the company. The period 1989 to 1991 was dubbed by a magazine MacAddict as the “first golden age” of Macintosh.

Apple’s profits continued to flounder from 1994-1997. Sculley was replaced by Michael Spindler. Later, Gil Amelio took the reins from Spindler. Amelio bought NeXT owned by Steve Jobs bringing Jobs back on board as Apple advisor. On July 9, 1997, Amelio was ousted by the board of directors as profits continued to spiral down. Jobs assumed as interim CEO.

August 15, 1998, Apple introduced iMac designed by a team led by Jonathan Ive. Ive also later came up with iPod and iPhone. The iMac surged Apple’s profits to new heights and the company became profitable again since 1993.

With Ive at the helm of the design team new product innovations are introduced and continuously created.

II. Leadership Style of Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Paul Ive CBE was born in February 1967 in London. Being the Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Computer he is the one responsible for introducing innovative products and designs such as the iconic iMac, iPod and iPhone. All of these products are credited to rake in millions in profits for Apple.

Jonathan Ive is known for his being overly protective of his privacy. Little is known about the man since he joined Apple in 1992. Ive, however, is known to be very adept in construction of objects, a fascination he holds since he was a child.

He attended school in south of England moved North to study art and design at Newcastle Polytechnic (now Northumbria University) in 1985.

In 1990, Jonathan moved to London and opened his own design studio, Tangerine, together with Martin Darbyshire. At Tangerine, Jonathan developed his design skills with the broad range of products he created.


Apple was a client of Tangerine. In 1992, Jonathan was offered a lucrative post in the company and he joined Apple’s design team full-time. Being a full-time designer for Apple enabled Ive to exert more influence on the creation of the product.

Jonathan joined Apple at a time when the company was at its lowest. Steve Jobs had just been relieved from his managerial job and resigned from Apple. The company was also involved in an ugly patent court battle with fiercest rival Microsoft on the Windows operating system. Apple’s profits plunged to its lowest levels as it lost clients to Windows daily.

Apple’s design department was overworked as they were made to create a number of computers and electronic products which never took off. The number of products Apple offered to the public somehow created confusion among customers. Product recalls were not unusual at that time, fanning more chaos. Apple eventually had to outsource its design work to Sony. It was the lowest point of the company who once was known for its design capabilities.

When Steve Jobs returned at the helm in 1997, Jonathan Ive was promoted to Senior Vice President of Industrial Design. This was the turning point for Apple. Jobs and Ive working side by side, Apple regained its glorious golden days.

According to Jonathan Ive, “very often design is the most immediate way of defining what products become in people’s minds.” This man whose main motto “Sorry, no beige” has certainly defined the way Apple is envisioned by the people. He is rightly referred to as the Armani of Apple.

Ive’s very presence casts a huge influence on how Apple is run and has evolved as a company. His vision has always been creating something radically new. Thereby making innovation a paramount consideration. Jobs encouraged Ive to rethink the computer concept resulting in the creation of a machine that is clearly not just another beige box.

Ive stands for the Apple philosophy of innovation. The conservative “beige box” status quo is not in line with this. When he is working on a new design, Ive calls it a “a vigorous intellectual process” which requires the collaboration of his small design team for months on end. Putting in extra hours is definitely required during the creative process.

The design that Ive and his team come up with is based on the results of a research conducted to determine what consumers want. For instance, people in Asia and Europe where living spaces are smaller, want smaller PC.

Ive installed large handle on the back to “invite people to pick it up and touch it.” Another consideration would be ease of use. Ive knows that some people are intimidated by the computer and he wants to make the computer experience as enjoyable for them. Hence the creation of iMac with the idea of it being looked at as “approachable” in mind.

Ive’s leadership style is relaxed to encourage creativity. A non-threatening, lack-of-agenda kind of environment fires his imagination, thus creating new ideas, even more. Ive wants not just to create a machine but to come up with a creative statement.

His work philosophy revolves on redefining the computer as not just a “beige box.” The form of the computer was never considered essential as computer companies, in the past, were afraid to break out of the mold. The speed and performance of the computer have always been the primary consideration. But Ive definitely reversed this way of thinking by coming up with new iMac designs.

Form is equally important to function. The iMac’s form then must be identifiable as a computer at a mere glance. But he believes that form has nothing to do with a computer’s function. According to him, “Apple decided to redefine a computer’s form, while making sure people could recognize it as a computer.”

Ive’s leadership style is in keeping with his personal character. He is known to be self-effacing, modest, shy person and definitely, a genius at what he does. He is very focused on work. He keeps a very demanding working pace of 70 hours a week. He is at the heart of Apple and he knows the special place he holds in the said company.

He is silent when it comes to personal affairs but wax eloquent when asked about his latest work. His obsession and passion on designs, great attention to detail and technicalities define his leadership style.

Little is known about his ways as the man seldom talks but Ive does not shy away from sharing the process of creating his designs. He called this process “the craft of design.”

He works passionately with his small select team of talented artists just like him. When they are working on a project, he wants to focus only on what is essential and limit the number of projects they take on.

Ive is concerned with living a Zen-like serene life, relaxing in the company of his colleagues while listening to computer generated music.

He insists on having a clear understanding of how the product should be made. The littlest details involving as materials, tooling and the objective of the design do not escape him. His main focus though is inculcating the need to care deeply about the work.

Apple’s design team is an intense version of a cult. This group operates on a very high level, individually and as a group. They cooked up designs while eating pizza in small kitchen isnide the design studio.

The team works in an idyllic atmosphere. They rarely attend events and they do not relish outside recognition other than each others’ which reflected in their designs – casual, elitist with Euro influence.

The relationship of the team is characterized by great camaraderie. They dine out and take field trips together. Their working spaces offer great privacy. Apple employees are not allowed to distract them at work.

Ive uses the latest prototyping equipment combined with a small team. His design process uses iteration extensively which means making amd remaking models to come up with new concepts. The team is encouraged to commit errors in order to bring out curiosity and invite deeper exploration. The idea is if one does something wrong then one has done something new.

Ive’s design team works with engineers, marketers, and even outside manufacturing contractors in Asia a lot. Innovation, of course, is strongly encouraged.

Jonathan Ive believes that “Apple really was born to innovate” which is exactly what everyone thinks of him. Ive redefines the people’s mindsets on how computers should look like.

Jonathan Ive provides Apple an independent vision necessary to maintain its market leadership in product innovation. He is the designer that caters to the unmet desires of the market which is responsible for Apple’s unmitigated growth.

He can determine winning products in an instant, perhaps more than anyone else at Apple. His greatest strength is to be able to translate that vision into tangible products exemplifying grace and precision. In order for Apple to maintain its innovative edge, Jonathan Ive needs to be at the helm.

III. Organizational Culture

The organizational culture of the Apple reflects the values of its founder and designer to a huge extent. Job provides the vision and determines the direction Apple is taking but it is Ive that is considered as the Apple’s Man Behind the Curtain. Ive combines form with function. His creativity and innovative designs provide the link that connects function of the computer to its glamorous and attractive forms. Apple’s success is due largely to the chemistry between its founding figure and its visionary chief designer. Steve Jobs found in Jonathan Ive the man that can complete his vision and do it over and over again.

Chief designer Jonathan Ive rises up to the challenge time and again and becomes the focal point for Apple’s almost miraculous turnaround after being on the brink of bankruptcy. Since his assumption to the design role, Apple had enjoyed a new period characterized by great creativity, incomparable product innovation and stunning designs which redeemed Apple from its deteriorating image.

When Jonathan first revealed the visually captivating iMac G3, dubbed as the ‘new Apple’, to the public, Apple has never looked back. The enthusiastic reception of the company products has never waned since then. Praises and accolades were heaped upon the new iBook, Powerbook and other Apple products. Jonathan and the Apple Design team captured the world’s imagination in the innovative products they introduced. Finally the world took notice of the ingenuity of this passionate team.

Masterpieces upon masterpieces were released. Competitors were quick to imitate but they cannot equal the genius of the design. This enables Apple to soar to new heights. Jonathan and his design team’s products have pushed beyond limitations, stretching boundaries without breaking them. Apple’s popularity and loyal following grows in the process as reflected in its market share and profits.

Jonathan has certainly left his indelible mark in every masterpieces he produced allowing Apple to penetrate, what would have been otherwise, unexplored and new markets. The range of products they introduced blurred the target age range of their intended customers. Teenagers to corporate leaders – there is bound to be an Apple product that caters to their different tastes. The latest iPods to the newly-introduced iPhones all bear Jonathan Ive’s signature designs characterized by its simplicity and revolutionary look.

The tandem of Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive is aptly called “Steve & Jony Show.” The result of this collaboration comes in the form of candy-colored iMac to iPod Nano to iconic iPhone. Sale of Apple shares rose to 1,273% in a span of 10 years. With Jonathan Ive’s able leadership, design becomes a huge commodity to sell. Apple has become a product that rely on selling emotions as embodied by its radical designs.

Jobs and Ive commitment to perfection is admirable. Like a Swiss watchmaker with great attention to details, he once asked a shipment of fine Italian marble to be sent to Cupertino so he could personally inspect the marble’s fine veining.

In other companies, the designers are often prone to cost-cutting measures. Jobs however believes in providing them the best so they could live up to his high expectations. Jobs, at one time, insisted that there should be not one visible screw in the new Mac. When the designer failed to do this, he fired him on the post. Both Jobs and Ive dislike also ostentatious display of wealth. Both like wearing informal clothes even to work. Passion for excellence are the undeniable trademarks of the two.

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