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Apple's Jony Ive says he still has a lot to do there

The design chief, speaking with Vogue's Anna Wintour, also notes companies can't always predict the consequences of products they create.

2018 Apple Autumn New Product Release Conference

Jony Ive, Apple's chief design officer, chats with Apple CEO Tim Cook at the company's September iPhone launch. 

Getty

Jony Ive isn't done with Apple yet.

Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour on Monday asked Ive if he's planning to stay at Apple for another 25 years or if he plans to go into politics or putter around on his boat. In a characteristically long-winded answer, Ive said he's still learning a lot and has more to do.

"I'm actually feeling quite antsy and feeling like there's an awful lot to do and an awful lot of opportunity, particularly just in the area of different expertise collaborating together," Ive said at the Wired25 conference at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco. He said the design team just moved into the company's new Apple Park campus and that the team's expertise is "absolutely without precedent." There are font designers sitting next to haptics experts and colorists, he noted.

"The energy and vitality and sense of opportunity ... it's extraordinary and it's very exciting," Ive said. "It's a little heady because we're trying to resolve what opportunities there are to pursue."

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The executive, who's now overseeing Apple Store designs, added that the last thing he learned was how you can connect glass to a structural frame.

"We've been doing this for a long time, and we're still surprised and learning so much," Ive said. "If you lose that childlike excitement, I think then probably it's time to do something else." When Wintour asked him if he was at that point, Ive responded, "Oh goodness no."

Ive's first design for Apple under then-CEO Steve Jobs was the candy-colored, all-in-one iMac. He went on to design Apple's most iconic products, including the iPod, iPhone and iPad. He was in charge of hardware design until CEO Tim Cook expanded his job to include the look and feel of software in 2011. Then in 2015, Cook promoted Ive to the role of chief design officer. He handed off some of the day-to-day managerial duties in favor of focusing on redesigning Apple's retail stores, its new campus and other products.

Apple, which became the US' first trillion-dollar company in August, has been soaring over the past few years. The company in September introduced its new iPhone XS and XS Max phones, and it plans to release its slightly cheaper iPhone XR later this month. 

Bringing back humanity

But as Apple has been rising, it also has faced some questions about the ways mobile devices are changing the way we live, both good and bad. Two of Apple's major shareholders published an open letter in January that asked Apple to take a socially responsible approach toward children's device use. It cited concerns about mental health problems and other issues that come from heavy phone use. 

In response, Apple vowed to introduce new features to help parents manage their children's use of its smartphones. At WWDC in June, it announced its new Screen Time feature in iOS 12 that lets parents monitor and cap how much time their children spend on their Apple devices. 

The first question Wintour asked Ive was about device addiction. He acknowledged that devices are sometimes used in unexpected ways, and Apple always has more to learn.  

"It's good to be connected," he said. "The real issue is what you do with that connection. I think the nature of innovating is that you cannot predict all the consequences. In my experience, there have been surprising consequences -- some fabulous and some less so."

But he noted that device addiction isn't really the big challenge. Instead, it's the "way the environment and context affects the way we relate to each other." Apple has been working to make interactions less transactional and "restore some humanity" by adding things like the animated Memoji and adding new features to Messages.

"We don't see our responsibility ending when a product is shipped," Ive said. "Importantly we learn an awful lot that informs and influences what we do next. We feel very strongly we have a moral and a civic responsibility."

He quoted something Jobs once said. "We make things to try and express our appreciation for the species, for humanity."

"That is exactly why we do what we do," Ive said. "That sense of saying thank you and appreciating people you will probably never meet."

Secrecy

But that doesn't mean Apple needs to be less secretive.

"I think it would be bizarre not to be," Ive said. "I don't know many creators who want to talk about what they're doing when they're halfway through it. ... I've been doing this for long enough where I actually feel a responsibility to not confuse or add more noise about what's being worked on because I know that sometimes it does not work out."

Ive also added that he sees Pinterest co-founder and product chief Evan Sharp as one of the next rising stars of tech. He noted he has "tremendous admiration" for Sharp and has learned from him.

"One of the reasons I hold him with the regard I do is the way he looks at the world," Ive said. 

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