Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ive ... Who is the genius of Apple?
Steve Jobs or Jonathan Ive
Who is the real genius of Apple?
Extracted from Creative Genius by Peter Fisk
Steve Jobs ... the reality distortion field
His people call him a “reality distortion field”, and in today’s world of innovation there is nobody more
inspiring than Steve Jobs.
He has not only redefined the world of technology, but the music and entertainment industries too.
From the early days of Apple’s Macintosh to Pixar blockbusters like Toy Story, and back to the “i”
world of Apple, he is a revolutionary, intelligently making sense of markets, and applying technologies
to existing and emerging consumer needs.
Jobs grew up in the Californian apricot orchards that later became known as Silicon Valley, at a time
when technological innovation and psychedelic music were competing local influences. He studied
physics and literature but dropped out to found Apple Computer with his friend Steve Wozniak in
1976, based in his parent’s garage and financed by the sale of his VW campervan. By the age of 23
he was worth over $1m, over $10m by 24, $100m by 25, and now a billionaire many times over.
He grew the business by focusing on niche markets, charging a premium for his novel products.
However 1985 saw him lose out in a power struggle with John Sculley as Apple began to crumble
under the competitive might of Microsoft. This led him to Pixar animation studios, which has since
created some of the most successful and loved animated films since the early days of Walt Disney.
Apple was struggling, and turned to Jobs in 1997 to come back. He was uncertain that the business
could survive, telling Time magazine “Apple has some tremendous assets, but I believe without some
attention, the company could, could, could – I’m searching for the right word – could, could die.” He
recognised that the computing world was changing quickly. In the same way that Pixar had
transformed movies, the likes of Dell had disrupted the computing world.
But Jobs saw the future of technology differently from others. He saw it as more than ever more
powerful grey boxes, even with customisable parts, that were quickly redundant as Moore’s law of
computing power continued to hold true. He realised that technology needed to learn something more
from Pixar – how to connect with people emotionally, and to have a story that will endure over time.
He needed to create machines with spirit.
He re-kindled his passion for well-designed computers, this time with open systems, and the launch of
his funky coloured iMacs – blueberry and tangerine, instead of plastic grey. People loved them, and
they became the icon of a new generation of individuals and businesses. He kept working on avery
aspect of design. Launching the Mac OS X user interface in 2000, he told Fortune magazine “We
made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them”
He focused relentlessly on innovation and marketing, outthinking rather than outspending his peers.
“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the
Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more R&D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you
have, how you’re led, and how much get it” he added in the Fortune interview.
More significantly, Jobs recognised that the music industry was in desperate need of innovation. In
2001, the iPod was born, the baby of a new generation of devices, with the staggering ability to hold
1000 songs. iTunes closely followed, the real innovation as its transformed the way people buy music,
and therefore changed every other aspect of the industry. New releases were ever small but more
Pixar became part of Disney in 2006, in return for $7.5 nillion, making Job’s Disney’s largest
shareholder, and taking a seat on the board. And a year later came the iPhone – a sensation that
threatens to transform the communication world, not least through its open platform for apps. The
MacBook Air brought the magic back to computing in 2008, and then came the iPad heralding the
tablet computing revolution of 2010.
Jobs takes a deeply personal approach to business – a visionary and strategist, and a passion for
perfection. He is also a phenomenal communicator, the master of the message, rehearsing for hours
to perfect every line that he will speak in public.
He has a reputation as a forceful, uncompromising boss – dreaming of better ways to engage and
inspire the user, but screaming at his people if they don’t execute to perfection. He is a control freak,
wanting to be involved in every aspect of the business, a man of the people but quick to fire people
almost at random. Yet he has succeeded through great partnerships – in the early days with co-
founder Steve Wozniak, and more recently with chief designer Jonathan Ive.
He can be enigmatic, the iconic symbol of one of the world’s most loved brands, but he can also be
paranoid and obsessive. Working at Apple can be more covert than being a CIA agent, with
employees warned against talking about what they do at work, or even where they work. Whilst loose
talk is a strict firing offence, most employees don’t even know what’s happening anyway, only
involved in projects on a need to know basis only.
If himself getting fired from his own business, and then returning, was not dramatic enough, Jobs has
also survived two brushes with death, including taking six months out for a liver transplant in 2009.
There have also been questions over shares, and some failures too, Apple TV and a set-top box were
Yet Jobs is a business superstar, voted by Fortune magazine at the end of 2009 as “CEO of the
Decade”. Bringing together his contributions to Apple, Pixar, Disney, and others, Fortune estimated
that he has created over $150 billion in shareholder wealth.
We know little about what makes Steve tick. He hangs around with rock stars like Bono, and serious
thinkers like Al Gore. He has become the dominant personality in four different industries,
transforming the world of music and movies, communications and computing. He is admired by his
leadership peers across the world, and by many more of us who use his products. And leads the most
awe-inspiring, creative, and arrogant team of innovators around.
Perhaps the best insight into what makes Steve Jobs comes in his 2005 Commencement Address at
Stanford University, which can be viewed and read online. In it he encourages his audience to believe
in themselves, to grasp every opportunity, just like he does:
“Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma ... living
with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own
inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Jonathan Ive ... the real iMan of Apple
Jonathan Ive never made much of an impression when he trained at Newcastle Polytechnic or when
he went to work on wash basin designs for Tangerine in London. He had design ideas that no one
understood. Then he moved to California, and began work at Apple, and there he found the people
who understood his passion for “humanising technology”, and a home he’d sought
Apple represents perhaps the most successful fusion of business and design. And Ive, with a little
support from his CEO, has been largely responsible for its journey to global icon. Despite being
notoriously secretive about its design process, Apple makes no secret of Ive’s contribution.
The man who, after Jobs, is most responsible for Apple's amazing ability to dazzle us with iMacs,
iPods, and iPhones believes in "the craft of design." He likes to focus on few projects, and what
matters most within them.
He likes to understand his challenge deeply – the user, application, materials and tools. And he cares
deeply about what he creates. He combines what he describes as “fanatical care beyond the obvious
stuff” with relentless experiments into tools, materials and production processes.
Apple's previous design chief, Robert Brunner hired the young British designer and says of his
successor "he likes to make perfect solutions" and praises his ability to combine design and
manufacturing, to create beauty which is practical and profitable, and his ability to engage his boss.
"With technology, the function is much more abstract to users," says Ive comparing Apple’s challenge
to what he sees in other sectors "so the product's meaning is almost entirely defined by the designer."
Ive describes his design principles as "simplicity, accessibility, honesty, and enjoyment.”
Even in his early days at Newcastle, he had become something of a legend in design circles. Once he
filled his Gateshead flat to the ceiling with hundreds of foam models of his final project, which used an
integrated microphone and earpiece to help teach children with hearing difficulties, all in trademark
In Cuppercino Ive started by designing the short-lived Newton PDA software, and became Apple’s
design chief in 1996, at a time when Jobs was gone and the business was in deep trouble. A year
later the co-founder returned, and immediately axed all but four of Apple's sixty-plus products. Jobs
saw design as the future for Apple, and scoured the world for a design superstar, until realising that
he had just that under his nose.
A design synergy was born. Jobs set the direction and Ive made it happen. It started with the first
iMac, for the first time turning the intimidating personal computer into someting more fun. To
understand how to make a plastic shell look exciting rather than cheap, Ive and his team visited a
candy factory to study the finer points of jelly bean making. They also spent months with Asian
partners, devising new plastics-based manufacturing processes, and then set about making the
internal electronics look sexy, because now you could see them. The casing cost $65, three times
more than normal, but it was the design feature that turned the business around.
What sets Ive's designs apart is their "fit and finish" - the impression that results from thousands of
tiny decisions that go into a product's development. Take injection moulding, where the process
involves figuring out how to inject molten plastic or metal through tiny "feed lines" into an irregularly
shaped cavity, and then having just the right amount of holes so that it cools to a blemish-free