His face is unknown to the public but his designs have rapidly become icons and changed the way we use computers and listen to music.
Now Jonathan Ive, the designer of the iPod, the iMac and the iBook, has been recognised by being voted top of a list of Britain's 50 most influential cultural figures. The list, compiled by leading figures in the worlds of fashion, the arts, media and design, has been compiled for the first birthday of BBC3, the youth-orientated digital channel. The programme, Top 50 Cultural Movers and Shakers, is to be broadcast this evening.
The rest of the list includes many more predictable figures. The author J K Rowling, and the actors Ricky Gervais and Ewan McGregor rank second, third and fourth respectively. The list also includes the fashion designer John Galliano, who ranks fifth, the director Sam Mendes, who is 15th, the television presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly, who are 18th, and Simon Fuller, the man behind Pop Idol, who ranks 35th. Other actors include Catherine Zeta-Jones, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
The list includes people who are not very well known, such as Mr Ive, but considered highly influential by their peers. Hugo Manassei, who created websites for the network provider Orange and other companies, Will Alsop, who designed the Peckham library in south London, and Harry Blain, the owner of the London gallery, Haunch of Venison, are among some of the more obscure names. Although most of the names reflect a London bias, Glasgow is deemed the UK's most fashionable city and comes in at 48.
The recognition for Mr Ive comes after a Christmas season when the iPod, which converts music from vinyl records and CDs into electronic files, was a favourite gift for many and Mr Ive's appointment to the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce's Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry.
Mr Ive, 38, who was born in Chingford, east London, is now in San Francisco where he earns £1m a year as vice-president of industrial design at Apple Computers. He joined Apple in the early 1990s after the design firm he was working for in London was asked by the struggling American company to create a look for a new laptop. He took the design to California and was hired immediately. The iMac's colourful rejection of the conventional appearance of computers was a success and Apple was resurrected as a company. The iBook and the iPod have since followed and are widely praised for their good design.
Mr Ive's ideas are often inspired from his everyday surroundings; the see-through casing of the iBook came from looking at food wrapped in clingfilm.
Mr Ive , who is married to Heather, a historian, gives few interviews, but he told The Face that he loved computers because "no other product changes functions like a computer. The iMac can be a jukebox, a tool for editing video, a way to organise photographs ...it allows us to use new materials, to create new forms. The possibilities are endless".
TOP 20 CULTURAL MOVERS AND SHAKERS
1 Design: Jonathan Ive
2 Literature: J K Rowling
3 Media: Ricky Gervais
4 Film: Ewan McGregor
5 Fashion: John Galliano
6 Design: Seymour Powell
7 Film: Catherine Zeta-Jones
8 Media: Graham Norton
9 Architecture: Lord Foster of Thames Bank
10 Film: Ridley Scott
11 Literature: Phillip Pullman
12 Film: Orlando Bloom
13 Design: Thomas Heatherwick
14 Fashion: Vivienne Westwood
15 Film: Sam Mendes
16 Architecture: Urban Splash
17 Literature: Zadie Smith
18 Media: Ant & Dec
19 Art: Matthew Slotover
20 Design: Hugo Manassei
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