Quick. Can you name the designer of the Porsche 911? How about the Rolex Submariner? The original Macintosh?
Last week on The Talk Show, John Gruber and Jason Snell were discussing the new Designed by Apple in California book when the subject turned to Jony Ive. Off the cuff, Gruber said:
I've heard that he has lately been checked out or not as directly involved with product design and that he's been largely focused on architecture, meaning the spaceship campus and the new stores. And that maybe the other top-level executive who's been working the most with Ive is Angela Arhendts.
John (disclaimer, he's a friend of mine) clarified his remarks on Daring Fireball, but the rumors were already running rampant. It's what happens in the tech world. Ask Marco Arment. Or Rene Ritchie.
But back to Jony Ive.
Jony Ive is not Apple design
Have you ever been inside Apple's design lab? Ever seen the design team? Probably not. There are a lot of folks on the design team. There are a lot of folks who work for people on the design team, and even more folks who work for the people that work for the people on the design team. See where I'm going? Jony Ive is a brilliant person that I've had the privilege to interact with during my time at Apple. He's awesome, both as the designer we know, and as a person to talk to. But he's not Apple design.
One of the things Apple has prized itself on, driven by the late Steve Jobs, is the idea of surprise and delight. Part of the allure is the allure. That's why Apple keynotes were so masterfully crafted.
It takes more than two people to make a great design
If you ever sat in on a keynote when Steve was still alive, you probably felt, as I did, that he had been working all night in his garage on some amazing device or piece of software, only finishing in the darkness of the early morning, and then immediately drove up to Moscone in San Francisco in his Mercedes SL to share it with you. Just you.
Likewise, there was a Jony Ive video where he would tell us just how special the design was of whatever the thing was that we all wanted. That was pretty much it. Even senior execs like Phil Schiller were relegated to serving as Ed McMahon to Steve's Johny Carson. It was a two man show, and that worked well for a very long time. Now, it's working against Apple.
If Jony Ive has plans to spend the rest of his career designing Christmas trees with no ornaments, it doesn't really matter. There is a lot more to Apple than Mr. Ive. There is a lot more to Apple than even Steve Jobs.
Will Sir Ive take a step back? Was the Apple book truly a final celebration of his work? Seriously ... Who cares?
The legacy is everyone
There's so much more to Apple than any one person. So much more than any one designer. The legacy of Steve Jobs, perhaps the eventual legacy of Jony Ive, is about the teams and people they have put in place. They are the unsung multitudes that have always been a crucial part of Apple's success.
One day, be it soon or in the far flung future, we'll hear the last of Jony Ive's tales of how an Apple product came to be. Either way, the work will keep going on.