Skip to main content

Jony Ive: The jewel in Apple's crown who's actually worried about technology's effects on people

Jony Ive is an interesting character. The British designer, who grew up in Chingford, is central to Apple's success and is often hailed as the person who, in conjunction with the late Steve Jobs, managed to drag the company out of its late 90s rut. However, plenty of people simply don't know anything about him.

Apple's senior vice president of design this week spoke to Vogue, and offered a small but intriguing glimpse into his life.

Read more: Apple iPhone 6 launch and reaction

Unlike the majority of Silicon Valley tech buffs – think Steve Ballmer or Tim Cook – Ive comes across as quiet, understated and humble. His voiceover at the launch of the Apple Watch last month was mesmerising and slightly haunting. We in the office suspected that Ive was either heavily inebriated at the time or that the recording had been ever so slightly altered. Either way, Cook's constant barrage of boasts and self-congratulation on the night really emphasised Ive's lack therof.

Most interesting of all, however, is his apparent wariness of the technology he enables Apple to flog.

Jony Ive's father, Michael, was a silversmith who constructed various objects (like toboggans and treehouses) with his son and taught him to always sketch out designs before starting the building process. This is a lesson that Jony has transferred to his own children today.

"My boys are 10, and I like spending time with them doing stuff that I did, which is drawing and making things — real things, not virtual things," he said. "I think it's important that we learn how to draw and to make something and to do it directly, to understand the properties you're working with by manipulating them and transforming them yourself."

Technology figureheads' somewhat surprising attitudes to gadgets have been scrutinised over the past few weeks. It recently emerged that Jobs thought it was important to limit his children's exposure to technology and described himself as a "low-tech parent." Instead of leaving them to play with iPads, iPhones and iPods, Jobs simply preferred to sit around the dinner table and talk.

Read more: Legendary former Apple CEO Steve Jobs didn't want his kids top spend time playing with gadgets

Ive seems all too aware of the isolating effect that technology can have on people. "You know how very often technology tends to inhibit rather than enable more nuanced, subtle communication?" he said in the interview, referencing the unusual pulse function on the Apple Watch. "We spent a lot of time working on this special mechanism inside, combined with the built-in speaker. You feel this very gentle tap and you can feel my heartbeat. This is a very big deal, I think. It's being able to communicate in a very gentle way."

I still maintain that the pulse function on the Apple Watch is more creepy than anything, but it's nice to know the intention behind its development.

Image credit: Flickr (Simon Jary)