All eyes will likely be on Apple’s Jony Ive when the Apple Watch, his pet project of sorts, hits shelves this April.
And though Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design, is notoriously tight-lipped, he spoke at great length about his illustrious tenure at the company, his relationship with Steve Jobs and his deep love for rounded edges in a new profile for The New Yorker -- which was also granted rare behind-the-scenes access to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters.
In addition to the fact that Ive severely restricts device usage for his 10-year-old twins and that he initially assumed he would be fired upon Jobs’ return to Apple in 1997, the piece is packed with fascinating anecdotes about the soft-spoken visionary.
Here are the five of the most interesting things we learned:
1. Ive is painfully shy -- but micromanages his public image. The fact that Ive is self-admittedly “shy” distinguishes him from fellow Apple execs -- who must also double as showmen at the company’s buzzy product presentations.
While Steve Jobs exempted Ive from any presenting duties long ago, Ive did narrate, direct and edit the 10-minute film shown during Apple’s most recent unveiling of its new iPhones and Apple Watch, which suggests an obsessive concern “about the seductive display of his work,” The New Yorker reports.
2. Apple’s design studio is cavernous and bare. The industrial design studio over which Ive presides features an open kitchen to the left, with a vintage Faema espresso machine, a wall of books and dining tables that flow into individual work stations. To the right, a “cavernous” 3,000-square-foot-space consists of a dozen oak worktables -- each of which hosts a single product or component -- and three milling machines that can rapidly produce prototypes. A music mix that office manager Harper Alexander describes as “douchepop” gently blares over loudspeakers.
Ive’s own twelve-foot square office, on the other hand, contains a coterie of curios, including a rugby ball, a Banksy print of the Queen as a chimpanzee and a poster that reads “Believe in your f*cking self. Stay up all f*cking night…Think about all the f*cking possibilities.”
3. Ive’s design team is illustrious -- and largely anonymous. While Ive boasts a bold-faced profile and counts famous friends like J.J. Abrams, Bono and Chris Martin, his design team, which is 19 people strong, has remained virtually anonymous despite the ubiquity of its creations. They work 12 hours per day and are sworn to exacting secrecy.
Team members include Eugene Whang, who doubles as a D.J. and music promoter; Julian Honig, an Austrian surfer who used to design Lamborghinis; Jody Akana, a thirtysomething who focuses almost exclusively on color usage; and 50-year-old Bart André, who has the most patents of any Apple employee.
Apple currently employs three recruiters to tap new design hires, and finds roughly one new team member each year. Only two designers have ever left the studio in 15 years, Ive says -- one of which was for health reasons.
4. He reimagined the Star Wars lightsaber. Over drinks with Star Wars director J.J. Abrams, Ive shared his vision for the latest iteration of the franchise’s infamous lightsabers: “less precise, and just a little bit more spitty.” Abrams ultimately heeded Ive’s suggestions -- as evidenced in the film’s recent trailer.
5. He’s co-designing Apple’s new headquarters. After subsuming responsibilities of Apple’s software in addition to hardware in 2012, today Ive is taking on yet another new role: co-designer of its forthcoming headquarters. Though the British architectural firm Foster + Partners is leading the project, “you can’t outsource your brain,” Apple CEO Tim Cook told The New Yorker.
Some of Ive’s contributions include simplified control panels on the elevators and floors that slope up slightly where they intersect with walls. The space will also feature a private $5 billion walled garden.
Related: Steve Jobs: An Extraordinary Career