Claire Beale on Advertising

The boy from Chingford who puts the bite into Apple's iconic design

Lined up in Jonathan Ive's studio in Cupertino, California are four chunky Black Pencils. That's capital B and capital P, because these are no ordinary pencils. They are incredibly rare D&AD Black Pencils. There are few creative awards more jealously coveted than a D&AD pencil. Yellow pencils can be career makers. But the elusive Black Pencil is a marker of creative genius.

Last week Ive won two more of them, one for the iMac, one for the iPhone. He's already got four. So now the senior vice-president of industrial design at Apple is a D&AD record breaker. Six Black Pencils, more than anyone else, ever, and in less than 10 years. Beat that Juan Cabral, creator of Cadbury's Gorilla and Sony Balls.

D&AD, as you'll have read elsewhere in this paper, is one of the most important dates in the creative industry calendar, and it's one of the few events to unite the creative talents of the advertising and design industries.

Because for Ive perhaps the world's most revered product designer D&AD matters, the people at Apple call me up. Would I like to talk to Jonathan? They don't say it, but it's a rare honour.

So I have one of those awkward transatlantic conference calls with the man who designed my beloved MacBook (on which I'm writing this piece), Jonathan Ive CBE, pictured.

Asking him what good design really is seems like a good place to start. "Oh, that's a tough question," he groans. "The word design is everything and nothing. We think of design as not just the product's appearance, it's what the product is, how it works. The design and the product itself are inseparable."

Apple is unique, Ive says, by being in the hardware and the software games; design permeates through everything. "We have a very clear focus that all the development teams at Apple share, a focus around trying to make really great products.

"That can sound ridiculously simplistic, almost naive, but it's very unique for the product to be what consumes you completely. And when I say the product I mean the product in its total sense, the hardware and the software, the complete experience that people will have. We push each other, we're very self-critical and we'll take the time to get the product right."

For many people working in the creative industries, the bedrock of Mac believers, Ive is a hero, a creative genius: the man who transformed computers from grey boxes to objects of desire, design statements.

That's what D&AD has recognised and rewarded. But you don't have to be a creative purist to appreciate what Ive does. For everyone who loves Macs and iPods and iPhones for their intuition, for their clean aesthetics, for their leading edge, elegant functionality, Ive is the man who made technology both beautiful and accessible.

No doubt creatives the world over would like to know where Ive gets his inspiration from. So I ask him. "I never feel that I can answer this question in the way that people wish I would," he admits.

"It's easier for me to talk about my motivation, the focus on finding something that's better and new and that becomes self-perpetuating. As you discover something new, as you get to the point where you manage to do something that hasn't been done before or that other people have said it's not possible to do, I think that just feeds into the creative process."

It helps, perhaps, that he's designing products that he and his team love to use, in their jobs, in their lives. "We don't have to take this great intuitive leap to understand the mythical concerns of our users, because we are the users."

Does he see advertising and design as close creative cousins? "There is an important relationship between the products of creative endeavour," he explains. "And the breadth of creativity brought together by D&AD is what makes it unique."

But he doesn't bring his creative sensibilities to bear in the advertising manifestation of his design work; he leaves that to Apple's advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. "I'm friends with some of the guys who work on our advertising but we focus on our relative disciplines," he says.

I sat next to Jonathan Ive at a D&AD ceremony many years ago. I had no idea who he was and by the end of dinner I still didn't think he was anyone "significant". He was charming, polite, quiet, no sense of self-importance, no desire for attention. Nice.

If you read the Jonathan Ive cuttings file not a big book, he rarely gives interviews you'll find the same few scraps of information over and over: Jonathan is shy, he's modest, he's private. The boy from Chingford who became the British designer of his generation, lives quietly in San Francisco with his family, enjoying few obvious trappings of success beyond the odd Aston Martin (no doubt loved for its beauty rather than a symbol of status).

Despite the ubiquity of his designs, Ive insists that he doesn't get an ego rush from seeing so many of us using his products. "I'm not driven by making a cultural impact," he says. "That's just a consequence of taking a remarkably powerful technology and making it relevant.

"My goal is simply to try to make products that really are meaningful to people. Ultimately there is something motivating and inspiring in seeing someone using an Apple product and enjoying an Apple product."

Last month's Apple results showed strong sales of the iMac and the launch of the stunning iPhone has soared profits at the company by 36 per cent to more than $1bn. That's a lot of people using, a lot of people enjoying.

Ive was nearing the end of his four-year industrial design course at Newcastle Polytechnic (now the University of Northumbria) when he first used a Mac. After years of combat with PCs, the instinctual Mac was a revelation.

"I remember it really clearly, the moment when I realised that technology could be accessible and intuitive. And I had a real clear sense of the people who made it: it speaks to their values and preoccupations. And that's what makes Apple a remarkable and unique company."

Two decades after that moment of epiphany, could he imagine working anywhere else now? Ive laughs, but his answer is emphatic. "No."



Claire Beale is editor of 'Campaign'

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little