Jony Ive has a love for fast cars, but in the early 2000s, that hobby almost killed him.
After a string of early successes as Apple’s design chief, Ive bought an Aston Martin D89, only to get into a car accident one month later with a member of his design team, which nearly killed them both. Apple’s reaction to the event was to give Ive a “big pay raise.” Apparently, the car crash served as a wake-up call about just how valuable Ive was to the company.
That is one of several new details about the secretive Apple designer found in Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products, a forthcoming book from Leander Kahney, based on research and interviews with former Apple designers and execs. The unofficial biography sheds some light on Ive’s upbringing, design inspirations and occasional clashes with execs at Apple.
Ive worked closely with Apple cofounder Steve Jobs for years, helping to create the hardware products that transformed Apple from a company on the verge of bankruptcy to the most valuable business in the world. In the post-Steve Jobs era, Ive’s power at the company has only increased as he now runs hardware and software design. Yet, Ive has largely stayed out of the spotlight with the exception of the occasional pre-taped video at product launch events.
Tim Cook may be the head of Apple, but Ive is its soul. With that in mind, here are 10 things we learned about Apple’s soul from reading the new book.
1. Ive was cut from the same cloth as his father. Mike Ive worked as a silversmith and eventually helped craft a mandatory design curriculum for schools in the UK, which is credited with the rise of many British designers, including Jony.
2. He designed mobile phones and even clocks (cue iWatch rumors) as a young student.As one of his professors recalled, “He designed some mobile phones that were slim and detailed, like modern phones, even while he was still a school student.”
3. One of his first projects after college was designing a toilet for a client. He failed. Ive joined the design startup Tangerine in 1989 and was asked by a client to design a toilet, bidet and sink. The client rejected his designs because they were “too expensive to produce.”
4. Ive nearly quit Apple shortly before Jobs returned to the company. His new boss Jon Rubinstein, who gave him a raise and a pep talk, convinced him otherwise. “We told him that we were going to struggle to get through where the company was then, and that once we turned the company, we were going to make history,” Rubinstein says in the book. “Those were the terms we used to keep him at Apple.”
5. Ive was the one who pushed Apple to embrace white products. Jobs was initially against using white, according to former Apple designer Doug Satzger, and was only convinced when presented with a different shade called moon gray. “Most of the things Jony did historically at design school in England were white, and he started pushing white at Apple,” Satzger says in the book.
6. Jony loves techno music. It’s often played in Apple’s top secret design studio, which is described in the book as a noisy and “chaotic” place full of music and designers skateboarding and playing soccer.
7. He has the only private office in the design studio, which is described as being a “glass cube” with just a desk, chair and lamp, and no pictures of his family. The design studio itself is so restricted that even some top Apple execs like former iOS chief Scott Forstall were unable to go inside.
8. Ive isn’t allowed to tell his wife what he’s working on. Unlike some other members of his team, Ive also never lets his children come into the design studio.
9. Ive was one of two people who Steve Jobs requested to see after undergoing surgery for a pancreatic tumor in 2004. The other person was Jobs’ wife, Laurene.
10. Those who work with Ive say he doesn’t want to become CEO of Apple. One former member of his design team told Kahney that “Jony doesn’t care about all those aspects of running a company.”