Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Steve Jobs left designer Jony Ive more power than anyone at Apple (appleinsider.com)
353 points by ashishgandhi on Oct 21, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 155 comments

By comparison, John Lasseter has more power than anyone at Pixar. I think the situation could be similar.

Now, sure, he has to commit to budgets and timeframes but if he really wants something you have to figure it's going to happen.

And of course, he's not the top manager, the CEO equivalent in charge of the studio itself — Ed Catmull is. And yes, everything creative gets picked apart by other directors so it's not like he's the only voice.

But you'd have to say John Lasseter has more power than anyone at Pixar, assuming you wanted to look at things that way.

You could also say he's the creative heart of Pixar.

It's sure nice that those two things match up.


Edit: I explored this subject in my Quora answer on Pixar, Valve and Blizzard for those interested.


Yeah, sometimes we get the toilet seat cover iBook and Cars 2, but by and large having a creative guru under nobody else's thumb seems to work well for both companies.

Say what you will about the original iBook, 14 year old me would have killed anyone you asked to have a Tangerine model. Loved that design so much. And it had Airport, which was science fiction shit at the time.

It was certainly playful and fun and seriously one of a kind in the laptop category to this day.

But, Ive kinda let his design overwhelm the product and the design was a lot less timeless comparing to his similarly themed first gen iMac.

I consider it an evolution of the pretty ugly eMate (though of course much better), and it was created at a time Ive still was maturing as an industrial designer working closely with Jobs.

That's a fair point. Later designs grew ever more timeless. The only giveaway that the first all-white iBook is an older model is its dimensions, since it didn't have a widescreen display.

I would offer one counter, though – the portable computer was long seen as a super serious affair. It was a thing for suits. The iBook was a bold declaration. It said "Fuck that, guys, portable computers are for everyone. Look how fun that's going to be!" The design positioned it as a friendly tool for kids, for students, for mom and dad. It was, in its way, egalitarian in a sense that no portable had previously been.

Over the top? I guess, in hindsight, yes. But it reconfigured expectations, so in that way, the design did its job.

I thought this about the first Cars (I've yet to see Cars 2). What you have to keep in mind is that kids loved the first one, and probably the second one too. Even Pixar is going to bow to commercial viability now and again so they can make things like Wall-E.

Actually, John Lasseter defends Cars 2: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/18/movies/john-lasseter-of-pi...

Apparently the "critics" were far harsher than audiences.

Of course, Cars 2 is the low point in Pixar's streak but overall still able to capture an audience not to mention tons of toys sold. I understand Lasseter's point and given his fixation over the concept I'll just accept the fact it is a big deal to him personally just as I accept Jobs' enthusiasm about getting Beatles in the iTMS.

I think that's a very apt comparison. It's hard to overestimate how deeply personal Cars and Cars 2 are to John, but it's also hard to overstate how tricky they were to pull off.

Sure, you can criticize Cars 2 for having a story that didn't hit the bullseye. Totally fair, by Pixar's own "story, story, story" standards. But don't think the Pixar Brain Trust didn't do so first (as mentioned in the article, things had indeed gone wrong) or that they didn't do heroic acts to make things work. Ultimately it's an artistic process within a movie studio and you sometimes have to put things into production and trust that you can work out the problems. Pixar will bend everything out of shape to delay that point but it still happens. It's the fact that Pixar had done so well rescuing movies from a burning story that makes the rest of us forget that sometimes.

Still, where Cars and Cars 2 started from and how well the stories they had were executed — I think those things are hard to criticize. These movies are love letters to the automotive culture that came of age as John did, and they are both put on the screen with a huge amount of artistry, character, cleverness and humor.

The Cars storyline was offensive to begin with. People who compete professionally in ANYTHING demand the best performance from their peers. Anything less is disrespectful. Having someone throw a race out of sentimentality, and making that seem somehow honorable is despicable. And then they make the winner of the race out to be some kind of arsehole because he gave it his best? It doesn't make any sense.

The plot is the same as Lucky You and it physically made me sick.

They usually are, but that's often the last defense of truly awful movies. I've never seen Cars 2 so I wouldn't know about it in particular, but we can all think of some truly bad movies that did good box office.

I've seen Cars 2. It's not a dud. The people saying it's a dud are the intellectual high brow adults who don't get it.

It's a return to form after the truly awful Wall-E and Up! (Which were both made to please critics and get awards rather than please audiences)

Cars and Cars 2 suffer from some of the same problems that Shrek 2 & 3 suffered from: creating a self-consistent universe based on adult puns based on characters of modern society.Unless it is done with restraint and real skill it soon behinds to feel insincere and contrived (see Sharks Tail, Chicken Run).

Toy Story & Shrek did something far cleverer. Shrek especially is smart, sophisticated humour for smart, sophisticated kids. The references are all from children's literature and culture. Kids know the references and are able to understand the clever puns.

Shreks 2&3 are dumb adult humour forced into the Shrek world. Many of the puns are above children's heads and are not sophisticated enough for the adult audience. Adding plot-lines about lawyers, unions etc just confuse small kids and leave adults slightly cringing.

Pixar and Dreamworks are at their best when they choose their target audience and focus on it. Toy Story & Nemo are for smart young kids; Ratatouille & The Incredibles are for smart older kids. Then enough is added for the rest of the family: everyone gets a clever joke every few minutes; the stories are understandable by all. Wall-E and Up are very adult in the big story (but full of great fun in the small story) I thought they were wonderful but I do understand your point (although they are I no way 'awful'—even if you are 5).

I'm not convinced that Pixar have mad a bad film yet. Cars grows on me the more I see it (and believe me if you have kids you end up seeing these films any times). Nemo (by far the funniest film Pixar have made) still makes me laugh despite having seen it 20+ times.

{I'm told that Cars 2 is relentless: too fast and too complicated for young kids, but as I haven't seen it I can't judge. The fact that I haven't seen it says something: I normally see every Pixar film the week it comes out.}

The problem that Pixar has had is that we have had to judge Pixar by Pixar standards as until recently no-one was making anything as good. This has now changed. Wonderfully for us Pixar now has serious competition. Dreamworks has made a number of films that are as good as Pixar's. Some of them are as good as Pixar's best: How to Train Your Dragon, Megamind, Kung Fu Panda. Walt Disney Animation Studios is back on form with Tangled (Monsters v Aliens wasn't bad either).

How to Train Your Dragon & Tangled are thankfully free of transfer-modern-society-into-cartoon-world puns. Instead you are given a detailed, self-consistent world that complements the story (rather than being the story). This is a very good thing—something I hope that Pixar will move back towards (although I don't hold out much hope for Monsters Inc 2).

FWIW, My 4 kids all loved cars 2. They were bored at Up! and Wall-E (2 Pixar "misses" IMHO).

Actually Shrek 2 I think was on par with Shrek. My son watched it about 5 times on a flight from UK->US. I agree Shrek 3 was poor, but I think that was more to do with the story (or lack of) rather than humor etc.

Also with Toy Story... Our kids (And I) prefer Toy Story 2 to Toy Story, it just has a stronger story and more refined.

Agree @ Tangled though. Awesome back to form. Also Princess+Frog was excellent.

Loved the Quara answer! Cheers, Zach!

Interestingly enough, there is a quote from the Jobs book, from Ive, that was tweeted by Bianca Bosker, who works at the Huffington Post:


"Jony Ive:'I pay maniacal attention to where an idea comes from...so it hurts when [Jobs] takes credit for one of my designs'"

As much as Jobs considered Ive a 'spiritual partner' there was still a power play that existed between the two.

Jobs has never taken credit for a design, has he? People who are uninformed just assume it's Jobs, and that perhaps is what Ive is referring to. He probably meant "it hurts when [Jobs] gets credit..."

If you look at the Objectified interview, along with nearly every promotional video that Apple puts out, it's very clear that Ive is the design guy.

No one even knows who Ive is. Ask 10 random people not on hackernews and I bet you will get 11 blank stares.

There is implied credit being given, and Jobs knows this. He doesn't bother to correct it, document publicly who designs things, or let Ive speak to the press and take credit himself. All of these are tantamount to taking credit. If credit comes your way and you do not deflect it or recognize the true author, you are taking credit.

And Jobs has done this ever since he worked on Breakout with Wozniak, so it is unsurprising.

Has anyone here ever had their name on a press release for a product launch? Dude gets a 8-figure salary and unlimited autonomy without the risk and management overhead of starting his own firm. There are tradeoffs in life.

He didn't have to take credit for any particular designs, he just took credit for all the designs because of his unofficial role as "taste maker." That's way harder to refute. It's like giving Chuck Norris credit for all living things because he's allowed them to live.

chuck norris looked at this analogy…and it just stared back.

EDIT: there are a lot of interesting people on HN, but there are a lot of humorless people too. enjoy your spectrum disorder.

It's not that, it's just that we as a community are keenly afraid of HN's comments section turning into reddit's. Reddit's threads are often clever and sometimes hilarious, but that crap has choked off most everything else. That's not what this forum is about. If we don't remain hyper-vigilant, it will creep in while we aren't looking. Comments that consist solely of a joke will almost always be voted down here.

that's nice and all that you responded. any idea how i delete my account as this obviously is not the place for me.

There's no way to delete your account. If you really want to delete it, maybe email YC or pg himself?

"Everyone that doesn't agree with my sense of humour is handicapped!"


Could be an internal thing. I really can’t remember Jobs ever publicly and personally taking credit for design. But maybe he did inside the company?

I guess we will have to wait for the book for more context.

That might be. I did read something on folklore.org about Steve Jobs often being told an idea, dismissing it as stupid, and, several weeks later, often coming back with the same idea thinking it was his own.

Recently I read an interview where Steve said he had the idea for a "piece of glass with a keyboard on it", i.e. the iPad. Who knows...

I think it's more that when the NYT talks about the new "Job's designed iPad", Ive kicks the cat.

Personally, I think it'd be a much more intellectually honest viewpoint if Apple started showing off this creative process instead of the word "magic" being tossed around so loosely.

It's not magic; it's hard working designers iterating, researching, collaborating, and then iterating more to make a great product. And it's damn hard work.

Lift the curtain Apple and give Ive (and the others) their due.

The entire point of the design process is to produce magic. Why would you want to destroy that?

It's one thing to give insider looks like Valve does with developer commentaries. It's quite another to give up on providing and selling magic. Magic is the goal of technology.

Isn't the process a part of their competitive advantage though?

Well obviously it's not "magic." Magic is just a marketing term anyways.

It's been said of Steve, at least in the early years, that if you wanted to know what Steve thought of an idea of yours, you would tell Steve your idea, he would tell you "that's shit" and come up with half a dozen reasons why your idea is shit, then he'd go off an meditate. If Steve comes back as says "hey everyone, I just had this great idea" then he liked your idea.

Well then next time Apple introduces a new design, he better hauls his ass up on the stage to receive the applauds.

I personally would love that.

I second that notion, creative talent of this magnitude needs to be recognized more often!

"There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people [...] ever imagine that they are guilty themselves.

I have heard people admit that they are bad-tempered, or that they cannot keep their heads about girls or drink, or even that they are cowards.

I do not think I have ever heard anyone, [precious few], accuse himself of this vice.

And at the same time I have very seldom met anyone [...] who showed the slightest mercy to it in others.

There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.

And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.

The vice I am talking of is Pride. . . .

. . . In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, “How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?”

The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride.

It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise."

-- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, chapter 8.

I wonder if this is why Apple started showing their little 'how its made' videos at the end of new product announcements that have often featured Ives talking about design.

Apple has been showing "how it's made" videos for a very long time.

http://vimeo.com/11899632 (see 35:05 to 39:00).

Funny, not really, that he wasn't in the 4s' video. Didn't have shit to say that wasn't said in the 4's vid.

probably because the form factor hadn't changed.

we've been working our asses off.

so it was the royal 'we' this whole time?

" [Jobs] " in the quote was added by the person who quote's Ive. He might have meant anyone.. These injected words change the meaning of a sentence.

What you are looking at is part of a standard, accepted and necessary editing practice whereby pronouns such as "he", "she" and "it" are replaced with their antecedent pronouns; in this case "he" was replaced with "Jobs". There's nothing suspicious about it.

It was almost surely edited from "he", which would have been obvious by context.

at the end of the day. Steve Jobs had the final say on everything.

It staggers me that time and time again Apple lays out the reasons for it's unrivalled success for all to see, yet non of it's rivals seem interested in copying their methods and opt for simply copying their products.

Fortune favours the brave.

This applies to Silicon Valley in general, I think. We take risks, we bet on long shots, we try to serve markets with zero demand and squeeze blood from stones. We spend money like it was just paper, and when we don't have money we give our time away for free working on things we believe in.

According to traditional business management practices, no startup should last more than a couple of months. And most don't. And yet, somehow, Silicon Valley as a cultural economy is the most innovative, successful, profitable(?) place in the world.

What the MBAs don't get is that a rising tide lifts all boats. If my company creates a new market, can't meet demand, and goes under, I can easily find great work with the competitor that put me out of business. Or start a new business that serves their customers in a new market. Shoot, even if all I get out of it is that I can use their product, that's great. I'm still better off, even though I "lost".

And as long as we have this understanding with each other, that failure won't be punished, but rewarded, not with a golden parachute, but with more chances to fail-- then we're not afraid to take risks. We're allowed to be crazy. We're allowed to innovate.

Bet our future on an insanely great new project for which there's no demand, why not? We have nothing to lose. It's just a company, there will be more like it. We might not get rich, this time, but we'll know we made a dent.

Steve Jobs might not have invented that idea, but he sure taught it to a whole bunch of us.

I've added this to my snippet's file. Very well written.

Apologies for not adding to the discussion either, but I would love if gte910h would be willing to share this file on pastebin.

I'm flattered. Feel free to redistribute it as much as you like; in a country that's struggling just to pay the bills, I feel like we should be talking about this a lot louder.

A big reason for this is that what Apple does is very, very _hard_. It's really hard to build physical objects with design good enough to be featured in museums. It's really hard to build your own software ecosystem, from operating system to software distribution to entertainment services. It's hard enough just to do them; it's extremely hard to be great at them.

Even if other companies _wanted_ to replicate Apple's way of doing business, it's like Paul Graham pointed out in his Great Hackers essay: you have to have great people at the top to know how to identify the great talent below that actually dooes the work. Excellence has to permeate the entire organization. Do you see that coming from Samsung, HTC, or Motorola? They clearly don't have the capability, so they get the software from somewhere else, and then make it worse by adding their own differentiating layers.

Google or Microsoft can obviously make the software, but, unfortunately, they choose not to make the hardware, and in my opinion their products suffer for it.

>It's really hard to build physical objects with design good enough to be featured in museums.

True, it's hard, but not that hard. These guys did it on a regular basis: http://www.lushpad.com/articles.php?id=16&pag=1

The true reason as you point out is organizational and it is the same as that age-old killer of creativity: fear. The subordinates are afraid of doing something the boss does not want. The boss is not pushing ahead either because he/she is afraid of making decisions that may entail risk.

The article you link to has a photo of arguably some of the greatest designers of the mid 20th century, and Ive and his team are perhaps as consistent as the Eames or Saarinen. Doing good design is easy, great design however is much, much harder.

I personally think it's impossible to replicate what Apple have done. It's not just one thing that has caused a change but a series of changes starting when they introduced the iMac.

Apple is more of a "love mark" than a technology company. Back in 95, Microsoft was a love mark, people loved it when a new version of windows came out, now people dread it.

People started looking for an alternative and Apple was there, all different and shiny. It wasn't 1 year that turned them around, its the result of 12 hard years.

Microsoft released a tablet back in 2000, did anyone care? Apple does it and millions rush to buy it, they have created a following, this is not easily replicated. They innovate, amaze and move onto the next thing. There is nothing simple about this process.

To be fair there is little in common between the iPad and Windows Tablet computers, it is a shame they both manage to be called the same thing simply for lack of a physical keyboard. The windows ones, with the stylus, certainly deserve the name, as they are identical in spirit to a stone tablet: the defining feature is the ability to write freehand. Definitely not the case on the iPad, in fact, we use a digital keyboard on the iPad! It's no "tablet."

You could take everything you just said and apply it to Sony in 1980. Then their founder, Akio Morita, retired with poor health and they diversified into lots of sensible business decisions about owning studios

Then some little computer company in California moved in on their territory and began making beautiful, simple, well made upmarket products.

Might I just add, I am not your typical fan boy for Apple. Quite the opposite actually. I am a Microsoft geek at heart, learnt basic when I was 13 and loved them since. They can do minimal wrong in my eyes (except for windows ME).

I appreciate Apple in a completely different way, I think how they have created their following in nothing short of amazing. The spot a market potential and they make it work, really well.

The iPod worked really well but it was really the iPhone that did it for them, they brought Apple to the absolute masses. I am still not 100% sure if the iTunes store was a fluke, I don't think it was on the first iPhone. If it was planned in it's entirety then hats off to Steve.

Look at the market share now, Microsoft should be scared. I don't think Microsoft has ramped up it's game much either, Ballmer is a bit of a joke so I'm going to find it hard to take him seriously but I think I will always be Microsoft at heart.

The iTunes Store came with the original iPod, and it was an integral part of Apple's strategy.

You probably meant the App Store, which wasn't on the very first iPhone and was, in fact, a bit of a lucky strike. Jobs didn't want anyone installing anything on the phone (classic Apple control-freakery at its finest), so he insisted for months after launch that extensibility would come exclusively from sandboxed web-applications. Eventually they did release a SDK and establish a process to publish apps, but only after encountering overwhelming demand.

No, the iTunes store came in 2003, two years after the iPod.

I did mean the AppStore, thanks for califying!

By "sensible" you mean "disastrous." Owning Sony Pictures has been a consistent money loser, and the studio IP concerns at Sony Music and Pictures hamstrung their electronics arm from innovating in the face of the iPod threat.

In Sony's defense, the idea of a modern electronics company owning actual content was an interesting idea, especially as they introduced new media formats. It's not far removed from what Amazon is attempting in publishing and what turned out to be a very successful model for the game industry. Unfortunately for Sony, it turns out that the economics just don't work for music and movies.

It's more than the economics of owning a studio - Sony's ownership of their studios actively harms their other, actually profitable, product categories.

Look at the PSN's movie rental store - perpetually hamstrung by limited selection. Why would competing studios want to get into bed with one of their biggest competitors on their closed service?

Similarly, it creates internal conflicts of interest. Sony's electronics are constantly crippled when it comes to content, probably at the pressure of owning their own content themselves. For the longest time it was impossible to get any movies on a memory stick, forcing PSP users to buy them on expensive and battery-murdering discs instead. It took years to fix that mistake, but of course, by the time they did, public interest in mobile movies had basically all but disappeared.

It was a very 'sensible' decision if you are an MBA! If Sony had been a little more flexible and far sighted it could have worked. But as you say, it resulted in the DAT tape and minidisk being restricted to protect the studio.

It's the same sensible that means Apple shouldn't have started iTunes (we aren't a record company) and Amazon shouldn't have done Kindle (we aren't a computer company) !

At its heart, design is a risk, because it looks to create what isn't. Most businesses are focussed on improving what is. The unknown is unquantifiable, and doesn't fit well into a spreadsheet

Probably because Apple's approach to design isn't what they teach in business school...which obviously means its an anomaly!

Indeed. Industrial design is important and it needs to be given attention from the highest level of an organization.

But this introduces a paradox. If the top levels of your organization do not understand design, then they cannot hire or promote the best designers.

Could you be more specific on what these reasons are? You seem to imply that it's easy or obvious but I think it's neither. Success is never easy. There is no magic bullet, there is no blueprint.

Design is King.

There are queens and princes and other high ranking royal family memebers in this metaphor, such as marketing, sales and operations. But they all take their orders from the King. And Design is the King.

Anyone who thinks that is "harder than it sounds" isn't thinking straight. It's hard producing, marketing and selling badly designed products. It's hard motivating a work force who aren't happy or proud in their work. It's hard trying to compete with a company that's better than you at designing products. It's hard whichever way you choose to go.

Process takes a long time to change because you have to overhaul the entire bureaucracy or get entirely new companies. They are trying. It might take them 10, 20 years.

I wonder if that is true. By the time Jobs came back in '97 he had recognized Ive's talent and they released the iMac in '98. It took Apple one year to make that adjustment. How long should it really take others to do the same?

Which others are we talking about and how big are they compared to apple of '97 (in manpower, layers and departments)?

Twas ever thus. Ben Rich was Kelly Johnson's assistant at the original Lockheed Skunkworks (creator of the U2, SR71, etc) - he was regularly approached to leave and create skunkworks for every other aerospace company.

As soon as he talked to them they enthused about the Skunkworks setup and how their version would be better since it would be in the main plant, with it's own set of VPs to supervise it and be properly intergrated into the main business etc.

ps. Read his biography http://www.amazon.com/Skunk-Works-Personal-Memoir-Lockheed/d... if you think any of this Silicon Valley stuff is new

To those familiar with car history, there's a striking similarity between the Jobs/Ive duo and the Daimler/Maybach duo:

Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach lead the automobile industry in the late 1800s and early 1900s just as Jobs and Ive lead the computing industry in the late 1900s and early 2000s. Maybach was the engineering genius who pioneered countless innovations in engine design, while Daimler had the intuition to get the right products to market and do the industrial power play.

Well, not THAT much power:

'Ive wants to spend more time in the UK where he wants his sons to go to school, the Times claims, but the Apple board has refused to support his relocation. The story quotes a family friend as saying that "they have told him in no uncertain terms that if he headed back to England he would not be able to sustain his position with them".'

From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/pda/2011/feb/28/apple-j...

Sounds to me like HP-level stupidity from the Apple board.

Is not that just a story with no reliable source whatsoever?

And the true tabloid Daily Mail actually interviewed some of Ive's friends and they all said never heard of such a desire from Jony Ive himself.


>true tabloid Daily Mail

I seriously hope you're being sarcastic...

I guess we'll all find out on Monday.

That's from back in February, so even if it were true it says nothing about how much power Ive has post Jobs, and there's little reason to believe it's true, since it was heavily denied by even its claimed sources when other publications talked to them subsequently.

...or that's his excuse for staying in the U.S.

Guess I'm buying this book. It'll be my first time to buy a book during first release. Good marketing by the publishers. This is sort of like Freemium model, no?

I'm afraid that i will know everything from the book by monday if this press coverage continues.

Turn all the sentences into separate news articles!

Good point!

But yet, you never see him up on stage... There's a cult of personality around Ive on the Internet—everyone wants him to replace Jobs as CEO, but is that even realistic? Sure, he can design, but can he run a company?

Is there anyone who can replace Ive in his current position?

If you think there’s not then you already have the answer to the question whether Ive could become CEO. His ability as a CEO doesn’t even figure into it, at least not very much. He can’t be CEO and designer at the same time and a designer like Ive is at least as important for Apple as a good CEO.

I used to like the idea of Ive as a CEO but in hindsight that’s foolish and shortsighted. Sure, it sounds good but don’t you dare start thinking about it.

Not promoting someone because they're too good at their current job is a mistake bad companies make.

There's a difference between not promoting someone from lead code monkey, and not promoting someone from head of industrial design at Apple. The latter is a valid landing point for the rest of your life.

"Code monkey", really? I guess Jeff Dean, for example, feels pretty good as a top code monkey at Google.

That's exactly the point I'm making.

We all make that judgment individually. We all have different aspirations. You can't hold someone back because theyre too good at their job. You can let them stay where they are, if that's what they want. Otherwise you have to eventually make the tough decision to either promote your talent, or let them go.

On the contrary, I think it's a management innovation that tech companies have figured out how to keep good technical people in their areas of core competency by giving them the things they would really want out of a promotion, whether that be compensation, autonomy, etc.

The article notes that Ive is worth $128 million and has tremendous autonomy within the company. I.e. he gets compensated extremely well and has a ton of power but still gets to do the work he is obviously very good at. Why would he want to become CEO where he'd spend all his time answering to shareholders and analysts? Just to move up one step on the org chart?

Where you really get the promotion problem is when your corporate structure is too inflexible to give adequate compensation and authority to your best technical people. That does not seem to be a problem here.

I want to preface this by saying that I'm not implying there is any problem with the Ive/Apple situation, I'm merely arguing against the idea that you can stop an ambitious person from climbing as far as they want to climb.

You can never compensate a person what they would make if you actually promoted them. I.e., you can't pay your CEO less than or equal to your Chief Engineer. If I'm wrong on this feel free to speak up and/or down vote me.

I think you're making some assumptions here that are not necessarily correct, 1) that by being CEO you don't get to do the fun stuff, we only have to look at Apple's own former CEO to know that's not the case, and 2) that a person at this level is going to reflect on the choice and not think they would be good at the higher position. I'm no John Ive, but even my little ego has never allowed me to think I won't be equally good at some higher position than my current one.

Head of design at Apple -> CEO of Apple is not a promotion, however. It's a career change.

The opposite could also be a mistake: What if you promote that person to a position it is not qualified for? (I think the Peter Principle was already mentioned around here.)

Of course, you shouldn't promote someone as a lifetime achievement award. But at the same time if you hold someone back that has higher aspirations you will lose them.

We don’t know anything about Ive’s aspirations.

Promoting someone who is good at their job into a job they are not a good fit for is a much more common mistake.

Peopleware points this out as a reason to maintain distinct hierarchies for product development and software engineering.

And I do, too. :)

Promoting someone to a job they're less good at because they're really good at their current job is also a mistake bad companies make.

Keeping high performers in a role where they can perform highly, but giving them status, titles, and compensation in line with their importance to the company is the solution to both problems. This is why great engineering companies have career paths for engineers that don't necessarily extend into management. Hell, that's why Ive has a "Senior Vice President" title in the first place.

Have you heard about the Peter Principle?

From Wikipedia: "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence", meaning that employees tend to be promoted until they reach a position at which they cannot work competently.


Knowing what somebody is not good at is almost as essential as knowing what people are good at. I guess both Ive and Apple know this.

If you believe in the Peter Principle, you might be interested in the Gervais Principle (http://www.ribbonfarm.com/the-gervais-principle/) which uses characters from The Office to wax philosophical about organizational structure. At the very least, the first part is worth a read. It diverges from the Peter Principle in a number of thought-provoking ways.

Highly entertaining (and insightful), thanks.

There is a subtlety however. At most companies, you need less competence the higher you rise. What gets rewarded is playing the game, not competence.


I don't think Ive wants the CEO position. He has his dream job right now, and he's the best in the world at it. And he's certainly been well compensated for it.

More than that would he want to run a company.

I'm fairly certain the answer to that is no.

He doesn't have to run a company - that's what VPs are for - he has to LEAD a company.

In the 70s you lead by having the best hardware - you needed Woz at the head.

In the 80/90s you lead by having the best OS - that's why Next mattered.

Then you lead by having the best design - it would have made sense to have the designer at the head.

Apple is currently winning because it has the best production management in the world. It got their by having the best design but it's unassailable now because it totally owns the manufacturing business. Who else can get Samsung to produce cheaper parts for it's tablet than they can supply to their own tablets!

This fact alone left me feeling quite a lot better. Now I know Apple is in good hands at least for the time being. Tim Cook is also brilliant at what he does, and I am sure he trusts Ive as much as Jobs did.

Those are some damn nice CNC mills in the background of that photo. Wonder how much use they get.

That’s a screenshot from the documentary “Objectified”, here is the interview with Ive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0fe800C2CU

It sounds like those CNC mills are anything but decoration.

Speaking of that photo, the documentary it's from (Objectified) is very good and is on Netflix Instant Queue. (Might be available other ways but that's how I watched it)

If you like that, the same group made another documentary called 'Helvetica' that is all about fonts and, specifically, about the history and ubiquity of Helvetica. It's also available on Netflix-instant and is a pretty good watch:


If he is a designer who understands the manufacturing process, then that is awesome in my book.

My father owns/runs a CNC manufacturing business. Sometimes the designers/drafters (more the case they have a background in CAD) don't understand the subtleties of manufacturing and materials. I mean, they aren't big gaps or anything.

Best comparison is maybe coder vs tester. Both technical, but look at the same thing from two different perspectives.

Manufacturing process and material science are critical to the education of industrial and product design. A designer that isn't thinking about how a product will be produced isn't really a good designer.

It cuts both ways. There are designers who build things that can't be made - and especially things that can't be mass produced cheaply and easily.

But there are also people with 20years of manufacturing experience who don't what that we can do more things cheaply and easily with 5-axis CNC mills and hot-wire cutters than you can with a casting.

Sure it cuts both ways. I was just reacting to the picture of a CNC behind him.

If that is his design studio, it is awesome he has real equipment for making the stuff he designs rather than some art deco chairs from some snooty designer.

If you have a CNC mill or a 3D printer in the office you can certainly turn around prototype designs quickly!

Right now Ive has the best of both worlds, he has more power than anyone at Apple, and hes not the CEO. The CEO role comes with an extra layer of public scrutiny.

Knowing that Jony Ive has more power than anyone at Apple gives me a certain amount of relief about Apple being on the same trajectory for the next foreseeable future.

Of course, any new CEO/board can undo what previous CEOs and boards have set in stone.

I think they all have too much respect for Steve to change anything like this for a while.

The hard part will be when reality rubs up against things set in stone. The big trick will be to determine exactly when change is needed versus when some people just want to change things to make their mark.

I think it's interesting that Jony Ive came to Apple before Steve returned. Jobs didn't have to recruit him, and he fit perfectly into what Apple became.

'I often joke that my tombstone will say, "The Guy Who Hired Jonathan Ive",'

- Robert Brunner, Apple's former Chief of Industrial Design

He didn't recruit him but he got him out of the closet where he was hidden and put him in charge of the design team

In some ways because Ive was the head designer he had more power than anyone else regardless of Steve's extra effort. His work would impact every level of the company so immediately regardless of peoples personal opinion.

Who did they leave in charge of making sure people listen to him?

Tim Cook has been in charge for ages.

Where did the abbreviation "Jony" come from? It's Jonny.

I suspect then this is like Colin Powell being known as Coal-in... He's stated himself his mother calls him Colin!

I suppose Ive is Taste, now that Jobs is gone.

It's interesting how the soul of Steve Jobs stays in Apple to control the company even after passing out. A company that functions through the power of will, creativity and beliefs.... it's different from all the corporate VP's and Executives we all see so organized at other companies!

I wonder how Jobs' death affected Ive? I would think Ive must be hugely grateful for what Jobs saw in him.

Interesting. And a Bloomberg Businessweek article has Scott Forstall as Jobs' heir-apparent at Apple.


This brings to mind a blog post published by Darryl Jonckheere in January that argued for making Jony Ive CEO:


Jony Ive is just the Shigeru Miyamoto of Apple.

ha, that's a great parallel to draw. miyamoto is behind many of the most iconic videogame characters AND game designs ever seen. so, in fairness to miyamoto, he's got a little steve in him as well.

Jony Ive? Yet another man behind the man.

I'm not surprised - Ive deserves it. The designs he came up with were the driving factor in Apple's success.

I think he gives Ive more power because of his experience with Paul Rand and the Nextstep logo.


In short Paul Rand tells Steve I will make you one design and I will solve your problem. Since then I believe he has given designers (Jon Ive in this case) their space to design whatever they want. Trust in the designer.

Great, but... Ive only does industrial design, as far as I know.

The other side of the coin is the software, and if that declines, Ive's going to be creating very well-designed paperweights. So who does Apple's software design?

I’ve also wondered this. iOS and Mac OS both have a penchant for faux-realism and pastiche which always seems strangely incongruous with the austere industrial design. It’s a trend that seems to be getting stronger, just look to the most recent version of iCal for example.

Apple’s current industrial design patterns seem to have a solid foundation in quite traditional modernist values, such as ‘truth to materials’, so for instance you would never see Apple ship a product with a plastic case coated to look like brushed aluminium. They would always use real aluminium.

It seems the software design team isn’t grounded in quite the same set of principles as the industrial design team.

I do wonder if the ID guys would rather see their designs running an interface such as WP7 (or even Plan 9, xMonad etc.), which isn’t as tied to real world metaphors and in a sense show more ‘truth to software’ (or to put it another way, there is certainly no ’true’ interface for digital information, but if there were one… I can’t imagine faux leather would be it.)

> to put it another way, there is certainly no ’true’ interface for digital information, but if there were one… I can’t imagine faux leather would be it.

I've wanted to make this argument in favour of sometimes using skeuomorphic (e.g. faux leather) design for a while:

All the other applications that come with Mac OS (say, iTunes, Mail.app, or iPhoto) have clearly-defined, strongly-typed content "atoms"—respectively, songs, messages, and pictures. The apps themselves just serve as magical databases with filters and specifiers to find and manipulate that content. They don't have to look like anything, because they're just "the box you put your music in" or "the box your get your mail from."

iCal and Address Book are the two main applications in the default set that break this pattern: they don't hold a clearly-defined type of content at all. It's just raw information: information about events, and about people, respectively. Because of this, you could get away with simply using text files for the same purpose, and nothing of value would be lost. It would even be as easy to sort and search, if you have a good text editor.

So Apple needs to offer a value proposition that makes a user want to use Address Book rather than a text file: familiarity in function and ease of learning curve. In a more design-oriented view, in cases where the data itself is arbitrary (you could technically store anything in a vCard), the software must bring over the rules and constrictions of the physical medium to give the proper context for the controls in the UI to actually afford their proper use.

A set of overlapping boxes means nothing; a set of overlapping boxes on a screen that looks like a calendar suggests what you should use the boxes for. A set of blank index cards seems to suggest no use whatsoever, until you bind them into a familiar rolodex-like facade.

You can see the same thing play out with the iOS apps that Apple has given design awards: the kind that hold strongly-typed information tend to get the UI out of the user's way, and let the information stand paramount; while the kind that hold raw data retain a strong skeuomorphic metaphor to suggest use over-and-above "put text here."

Interesting point. There were some rumors that surfaced last week that Ive only met Forestall in the presence of Tim Cook, and did not talk to him otherwise. Not very probable, but still too bad if that is so.

> So who does Apple's software design?

Scott Forstall is responsible for iOS. My understanding is that Eddy Cue is responsible for the iTunes Store, including the App Store, and now, iCloud. He was promoted to Executive Vice President back in August. I'm not sure who's in charge of Mac software.

You can see brief profiles of the various people here: http://www.apple.com/pr/bios/

I'm not sure who's in charge of Mac software.

It used to be Bertrand Serlet until he left last March. I'm not sure why he hasn't been replaced, at least from an outside perspective (no one is shown as in charge of Mac on the page you linked to).


That'd be Craig Federighi, he doesn't seem to have a bio on apple.com.


_I'm not sure who's in charge of Mac software._

I believe Craig Federighi is in charge of the desktop/server software. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20046998-37.html

That's a good point. Jonathan Ive is in charge of Industrial Design and when you hear him, he's talking as a designer.

On the software side, we don't really hear so much about the UI/UX design process the same way we do on the hardware side with Ive. What I mean is that I don't get the same hands-on feel from Scott Forstall when he presents new features of iOS.

I've been curious about who is behind some of the UI concepts and details of iOS but I can't point to a specific person like I could with the hardware. (NB: though I understand well that it's probably not just a single person :))

edit: I was watching this video again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0fe800C2CU In it, you can see Jonathan Ive touching the products and you can tell he would personally make sure that it would be changed if something didn't feel right. On the software side, someone has to make a decision on how much bounce the lists on iOS should have, on how fast animations should be, etc. but it doesn't seem to be Scott Forstall. I'd like to hear more from the software/UI designers at Apple.

I imagine he has some voice in the aesthetics of the software design. But it's true that the whole package (hardware and software) is the combination that makes apple products great.

Forstall appears to have same tyrannical streak as Jobs.

I'd fear giving Ive too much power/ego/etc, he needs to be grounded to do what he does. At the other end of the scale, it has been said he wants to be in UK more (duh :P), don't know what has changed there.

There was one Steve Jobs. If only two people can replace him, it's a little miracle. A master manager, and a master designer. They can continue w/o the ego fights. Like Bill Hewlet and the other guy (JOKING! Please spare my carma). They will do it, we all need them to do it.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact