Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products

Summary Written by Ryan Long
"The care the machine’s designers took to shape the whole user experience struck [Jony Ive]; he felt an immediate connection to the machine and, more important, to the soul of the enterprise. It was the first time he felt the humanity of a product."

- Jony Ive, page 28

The Big Idea

More than just cool colors

"What made the original iMac cool was not its color or shape. It was Apple’s demonstrated willingness to open the possibilities of Internet computing to an audience that had been ignored by the brainiacs who design PCs."- Jony Ive, page 134

Starting with the iMac in the late 90s, Apple began to think differently about who its audience was and grew that following in a brand new way. Jony’s iMac focused on the needs of the consumer, which was unprecedented in the computer or even the electronics world. PCs were made to do what they needed to do in business and designers were tasked with covering the machines in plastic to protect the hardware. “The advent of the iMac meant ‘office products [were] being marketed to teens.’”

I work behind the scenes in recruiting and my company recruits students. Essentially our “customers” are people aged 17-25. So what are the needs of the student looking for part time work? There are several that we already inherently meet in our program. Conversely, a huge influencer on the college students of today are their parents. Over the last several months my team has started to think about how to incorporate parents into our recruiting and advertising strategy. This book confirms for me that we are headed in the right direction of thinking differently about our audience and ultimately adding an audience.

Insight #1

He found the “I” in team

"Jony is very protective of his design team… ‘He’ll take the blame personally for screw ups … He’d fall on the sword for the weakest part of the design.’"- Jony Ive, page 170

Jony is considered the genius behind many of Apple’s most innovative products. While he has won many, many awards for design he never hesitates nor forgets to give credit to his whole team. I’ve seen many leaders give credit where it is due and thank their teams for hard work, dedication, and inspiration. What I haven’t often witnessed are leaders that will take the fall for mistakes their team makes.

“Falling on the sword” for your team is the most noble form of leadership. In a world that is increasingly becoming a place where you must always defend actions and mistakes, I can’t think of a better way to take care of your people and show them how important they are than to take ownership of the mistakes as well as share the credit for the victories. Jony has such a good team because he is an amazing leader. If the only thing that I remember from this book is to protect my team by falling on a few swords, it was more than worth the read.

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Insight #2

The art is in the simplicity

"We do everything we can to simplify design… When you look at it now, it seems so simple, it seems so obvious, and yet again, the simplest, most efficient solution has been the most elusive."- Jony Ive, page 190-191

I’ve heard for years that Apple products are simple and intuitive. As a relatively new Apple user, I don’t always think the interface is intuitive (although it could be the Microsoft applications that I’m using on an Apple product due to corporate compatibility requirements). While I don’t always love the user interface, I can’t argue with the simplicity of design. Smaller, sleeker, lighter, faster. These are ALWAYS adjectives that are used in conjunction with Apple. So I’ve begun to ask myself how my team and my company can simplify some of what we do, what we create, and what we say? I will do my best to incorporate a “less is more” approach in my work.

There are many more takeaways from Jony Ive than I could discuss here. While my company may never be as widely known as Apple for innovation and thinking differently, it doesn’t mean that we can’t put a little Jony magic into our operations. While I was fascinated by the design talk in the book, that’s not what I covered here. I would LOVE to hear what other readers find fascinating about Jony and his designs and how they inspire you to be different.

Read the book

Get Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products on Amazon.

Leander Kahney

Leander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of, and bestselling author of four books about technology culture: Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain, the New York Times bestseller about Steve Jobs; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod.

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