Kent GermanFormer senior managing editor / features
Kent was a senior managing editor at CNET News. A veteran of CNET since 2003, he reviewed the first iPhone and worked in both the London and San Francisco offices. When not working, he's planning his next vacation, walking his dog or watching planes land at the airport (yes, really).
Jony Ive, Apple's chief design officer, announced Thursday that he's leaving the company later this year. He will start his own design firm, for which Apple will be a primary client. During his nearly 30 years working for the tech giant, Ive designed several of the company's most memorable hardware products, including the iPhone and iMac, and had a hand in other significant projects as diverse as iOS 7 and Apple Park.
Ive's singular focus on minimalism and simplicity shaped Apple's design language, and he was a key part of Apple's comeback in 1997, along with former CEO Steve Jobs. In recent years, Ive has taken on more of a managerial position, but his influence and original designs still endure. To see the legacy and impact of Ive's tenure at Apple, check out this roundup of his most important products.
Watch this: Apple head of design Jony Ive departs to start his own firm
iMac G3 (1998)
A computer that wasn't just a grey box? In a dull world where almost all computers looked the same, Ive decided that color was the answer. First available in a bright shade called Bondi Blue, the iMac G3 later added 10 other colors, from Lime to Strawberry, and two patterns. A plastic translucent shell allowed you to see inside the all-in-one machine; there was no floppy drive, the mouse was round and it was the first Apple computer to use USB ports. As Steve Jobs said, "It looks like it's from another planet. A good planet. A planet with better designers."
iBook G3 (1999)
The translucent, colored panels from the iMac G3 quickly migrated to other products. The slim case of the iBook G3, made of rubber and plastic, bundled a large keyboard and a 12.1-inch display. It looked sort of like a handbag, and it even had a handle for easy carrying.
G4 Cube computer (2000)
Another computer that didn't look like a computer, the G4 Cube wrapped the guts in a clear polycarbonate skin. It was shiny, sure, but some users later reported hairline cracks. Apple brushed off the complaints by calling the cracks "mold lines" formed as "a part of the injection molding process."
G4 Cube speakers (2000)
Like a collection in a fashion show, these ball-shaped speakers were a perfect accessory to the angular G4 Cube computer. The actual speakers were Harmon Kardon, and they were powered by a USB port.
Apple iSub speakers (2000)
Also a collaboration with Harmon Kardon, the iSub looked like it should be in a lab holding a specimen for analysis. Or maybe it looked like a jellyfish, but it was another conservation piece that perfectly fit the G4 Cube collection.
iBook G4 (2000)
After the audaciousness of the iBook G3, Ive returned to a more traditional laptop design with the iBook G4. It ditched the bright colors for a solid-white polycarbonate shell and, though boxier than its predecessor, the rounded corners kept it from being a brick.
It wasn't the first MP3 player, but the incredibly simple design -- the genius scroll wheel let you scan through a long song list quickly -- and user interface made it fun to use. Of course, the iPhone would eventually cannibalize the iPod line completely, just as the iPod consigned the portable CD player to history.
Watch this: Our first MP3 players: iPods, SanDisk Sansas and more
iMac G4 computer (2001)
The iMac G4's design was as big of a departure from the iMac G3's as that machine was from any computer before it. Most remarkable was Ive's success in cramming everything electronic into a dome-shaped base that even had an optical drive. Meanwhile, the super-thin display was suspended on an arm that you could swivel and tilt. Colors were gone as well, in favor of a white and silver scheme. The device looked so unusual, it landed on the cover of Time magazine. "At best, people thought it was rather odd," Ive told CNET at the time. "I actually think this is less shocking than the [original] iMac was."
iMac G5 (2004)
With its sturdy L-shaped stand, deep bottom bezel and large display, Apple's all-in-one iMac G5 would become the template for all subsequent iMacs. Though it's been nearly 15 years since its launch, you can still see its aesthetic influence in today's aluminum iMacs and the iMac Pro. To Ive, the screen was always the centerpiece of the device. In 2009 when he introduced that year's iMacs, Ive said: "There's not a detail there that doesn't need to be there. There are no visual interruptions, distractions. There's just no other noise. Everything is about the display."
iPod Mini (2004)
As the smaller and more affordable version of the iPod, the iPod Mini was extremely popular and came in a variety of bright colors. Encased in an elegant unibody design, the device introduced Apple's famous "click wheel," or as Jobs described it at the time, a "solid-state scroll wheel." The space-saving wheel enabled users to navigate the iPod by turning and pressing down on the large white wheel located in the center. At its launch, Jobs praised the device's small size and said it was "pretty stunning" and "really, really beautiful." The iPod Mini was replaced in 2005 with the even slimmer iPod Nano.
Perhaps no other tech device has had more of an impact than the iPhone. Combining the capabilities of an iPod, a phone and a handheld computer that connects to the internet, the iPhone revolutionized how we communicate and access information. When Jobs unveiled the first iPhone, he emphasized its 3.5-inch touchscreen and said Apple "designed something wonderful in your hand." It shared a nearly identical design motif as the first iPod Touch (a line of devices that continues today). Fast-forward to 2017: When Ive introduced the 5.8-inch iPhone X, he described it as a "physical object that disappears into the experience."
At first it might have seemed hard to convince some people that the iPad was simply more than a larger iPhone, but to its credit the iPad did help usher in a new era of large-screen tablets. Equipped with a 9.7-inch display and a physical home button, the iPad was a sleek and powerful tablet, and it now comes in a variety of sizes. In a promo video introducing the iPad, Ive said, "When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works it sort of becomes magical -- and that's exactly what the iPad is."
iOS 7 (2013)
In addition to hardware, Ive was heavily involved in the design of Apple's 2013 mobile operating system iOS 7. It was one of the biggest overhauls the OS underwent, and ushered in an era that replaced a dated skeuomorphic interface with a more modern, flat aesthetic. Bright pastel colors, translucent notification shades and a homescreen with a parallax depth effect breathed new life into the iPhone. To Ive, iOS 7 represented simplicity. "[Simplicity is] about bringing order to complexity," he said in a 2013 promo video. "iOS 7 is a clear representation of these goals."
Apple Watch (2014)
Apple's first fitness tracker, the Apple Watch, debuted in 2014 and featured a stainless steel body, a rectangular display, a digital crown and swappable bands. It was one of the best-designed wearables at the time, but compared to rivals like the Pebble Steel, the Watch was expensive and had a short battery life. That didn't stop Ive from singing its praises, and in 2018, when he introduced the Apple Watch Series 4, he said it was, "a device so powerful, so personal, so liberating; it can change the way you live each day."
Apple Park (2017)
Apple's new headquarters, which sprawls across 2.8 million square feet and houses over 10,000 employees, features a huge circular building (nicknamed the Spaceship), an auditorium dedicated to Steve Jobs, and over 9,000 trees. Though the main architect was Norman Foster and his firm, Ive contributed heavily to the campus' design. In an interview with the design magazine Wallpaper, Ive noted that he expected the campus to adapt along with the company. "The building will change and it will evolve," he said. "And I'm sure in 20 years' time we will be designing and developing very different products, and just that alone will drive the campus to evolve and change."