Ever since the release of the original Bondi Blue iMac, Apple is a company that has been synonymous with forward-thinking industrial design. In fact, during a period stretching from 1998 to 2012, Apple’s vaunted design team, led dutifully by Jony Ive, managed to churn out a seemingly endless number of iconic products, including a wide range of iPods, industry leading notebooks, increasingly slick iMac models, and of course new iPhone models on a consistent basis.
All that said, it’s hard to ignore that it’s been a while since we’ve seen some thought-provoking new designs emanate out of Apple. Especially if we take a look at the iPhone, Apple’s primary revenue generator, the company has more or less kept the form factor unchanged since the iPhone 6, a device that was released all the way back in 2014. Meanwhile, Android handset makers have managed to churn out quite a few devices that, truth be told, look a lot more slick than Apple’s arguably stale iPhone design.
“I’ve heard that he has lately been checked out or not as directly involved with product design and that he’s been largely focused on architecture,” Gruber said during an interesting conversation with Jason Snell. “Meaning the spaceship campus and the new stores. And that maybe the other top-level executive who’s been working the most with Ive is Angela Arhendts.” Ive of course is still in the mix at Apple but perhaps he’s now more interested in other design-related pursuits.
Interestingly enough, Gruber adds that Ive’s ability to effectively operate unchecked has led to some curious Apple design decisions, such as the hyper-expensive gold Apple Watch (since discontinued) and the company’s ill-fated car design initiative.
That said, it’s interesting to note that Apple just released a 400 page book highlighting Apple product designs stretching all the way back to 1998. The book, in effect, is practically an ode to Jony Ive who didn’t really rise to prominence until the original iMac was released in, surprise surprise, 1998. Indeed, some have posited that the release of the book — which in and of itself was an unusual product to come out of Apple — perhaps signals Ive’s lessening interest in coming up with bold new designs, at least in the consumer electronics space.
To this point, Gruber speculates that Ive’s leadership within the design team at Apple may only be “spiritual” at this point.
Incidentally, Jony Ive and fellow designer Marc Newson recently created an “immersive Christmass tree installation” in London.
Looking ahead, all eyes will be on Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8 design. Rumored to feature a curved OLED display, there’s no doubt that there’s a whole lot of pressure on Apple to release a fresh design to once again reinvigorate interest in the company’s iconic smartphone.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed quotations to Jason Snell. BGR regrets the error.