Jony Ive is a redwood

“Is Apple’s success reproducible? Is their design culture? Is Jony Ive? After years of debate, my friend and I finally had a breakthrough last week,” Jon Bell writes for Medium. “The answer transcends a tidy yes or no — instead, think of Jony Ive as a redwood.”

“On one hand, of course Apple’s success is reproducible. They’re just a bunch of people in a company trying to make products, same as anyone,” Bell writes. “Every company has a workforce and the ability to hire talented people. Every company can invest in their future and set a high bar for quality. The playbook is there. Of course it can be copied.

“But no, no company really does,” Bell writes. “I don’t consider any company ‘design led’ other than Apple. Everyone has designers. Everyone has engineers. Everyone talks about quality. Everyone talks about delighting customers. But to date I haven’t seen anyone but Apple reliably have true design courage.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. Judge Crabapple asks, “If Jony Ive is Redwood, is Apple inc. Hardwood?”
    “Is iPhone Bamboo?”
    “Is OSX Balsa?”
    “Is Microsoft Cork wood?”
    “Is Google Rubber wood?”
    “Who are you in woody terms?”

  2. Wrong. But you have to look to Europe for companies like Bang & Olufsen or some of the German TV manufacturers. And most successful Italian home furnishings companies, or car companies like Ferrari, Maserati, who use the great Italian design houses like Pininfarina, Michelotti etc.

  3. It’s not just courage, it’s the integrity, the humility, the responsibility to talk the talk and walk the walk. That slow climb to the moral high ground.

    Sure someone can come out with some nice saying statement like “All men are created equal” but when that someone turns out to be a slave owner, you know that the walk does not follow the talk.

    Integrity, courage, responsibility, these can are and will be copied and propagated, such is the nature of life.

    1. You’re suggesting that the author of the Declaration of Independence was a slave owner and thus issuing a disingenuous statement.

      All of us are products of our times — If someone like Thomas Jefferson falls under suspicion, can anyone at all claim moral integrity, humility, courage, responsibility? Who is better? Who can live up to such severe demands? Anyone human?

      1. Yes I am suggesting that the author of the Declaration of Independence was a slave owner. From the entry of Thomas Jefferson on Wikipedia:

        “As long as he lived, Jefferson expressed opposition to slavery, yet he owned hundreds of slaves and freed only a few of them.”

        There are other references that can be found on the net between Thomas Jefferson and slaves. One source I found indicates that he wasn’t just any sort of slave owner: “At some points he [Thomas Jefferson] was one of the largest slaveowners in Virginia.”

        It’s not suspicion, insofar as I know it is a substantiated fact. You are right saying that we are all a product of our times. It does not remove the importance of the message that “all men are created equal” as a spring board, such an ideal can evolve, say “all humans are created equal” or even more “all life has an equality”. The value of such ideas is not only to have the courage, the integrity, the humility, the responsibility to make them but to also follow them. Talk the talk and walk the walk as I have put it. To this point I consider America shined brightly by the steps undertaken to action the idea, steps that required blood to be spilled as people fought for the principles they believed it. I hope that they are able to do the same once again regarding the issue of torturing others but so far the torture resorts are still open, those responsible are getting away scott free and as Frank Zappa once put it “the torture never stops”. It was once a product of the times but no longer. I’m not interested in going back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition, and certainly have no respect for a country that wishes to return to those sorts of endeavors. It is not courageous to torture someone, there is no moral integrity with such an act. There is a dash of humility to have a leader say “yeah we tortured some folks” but there is no responsibility taken when the leader says “we must look forward and not back” and washes his hands from prosecuting those responsible for implementing such a crime against humanity.

        I like your questions: If someone like Thomas Jefferson falls under suspicion, can anyone at all claim moral integrity, humility, courage, responsibility? It is nothing that one should claim of themselves but recognized by others. Thomas Jefferson evoked a wonderful concept. Some may say that it is hypocritical that he owned slaves but I say that it’s part of being human.

        Who is better? When the idea of all life being equal the idea of better is displace by appropriate. Polar bears do well in the arctic because they are appropriate for that environment. Lions do well in Africa because they are appropriate for that environment. One is not better than the other.

        Who can live up to such severe demands? It’s not a demand, free will allows us to navigate our lives accordingly. Not all will embrace these ideals, such is the diversity of life.

        Anyone human? I can think of several when it comes to those that evoke moral integrity, humility, courage and responsibility.

        Joan of Arc, Madame Curie, Florence Nightingale, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Leonardo da Vinci.

        These people, like Thomas Jefferson were not perfect but they did leave some ideas worthy of striving for.

        As usual thank you very much for your comments. I hope this shines some light.

        1. My idea was that the Declaration of Independence could be regarded as a disingenuous statement. I hope you didn’t think I meant your post was disingenuous. in any case — Even though my moral questions were rhetorical, you tackled them, and answered well. Thank you.

          1. Thank you Glendalough, I do aim to please.

            I do not see the statement ” “All men are created equal” disingenuous as an ideal. It’s a great idea, and actions that reflect need to be followed through. In this case it was, it took a while but now slavery is no longer a part of the United States repertoire of actions. Torture however has now become part of the repertoire and holding people and torturing them for over a decade is in my honest opinion a crime against humanity and letting those responsible get away with it just as great. It is sad to see the lack of reaction from the American people towards this. I thought that they were better than that.

            I’m glad my answers were satisfactory.

            As always, stay beautiful Glendalough.

        2. Go to Monticello in Virginia and they will show you where Thomas Jefferson kept his slaves. it’s no secret. The Declaration of Independence is not a disingenuous document because the term “man” at that time did not mean slaves nor women. Get with the times, bro.

          BTW, TMDR

          BTW, go to Monticello and learn something rather than rant immaturely.

          1. Thanks for your post hoffbegone. Certainly I could take another trip through the New England states to refresh my visceral experience and knowledge of American history but fortunately there are alternatives that I consider equally viable. For the record as I am an outspoken advocate of humanity and have received death and other threats from Americans as a result of expressing my sentiments against torture. I have therefore boycotted visits to the US, including my air travel and limit the purchase of items coming from the USA, Apple products being the exception because I believe in the integrity of the company.

            I never said nor implied that the Declaration of Independence is a disingenuous document. I said “Sure someone can come out with some nice saying statement like “All men are created equal” but when that someone turns out to be a slave owner, you know that the walk does not follow the talk.”

            To me disingenuous means not truly honest or sincere. I believe that Thomas Jefferson was sincere in his desire to abolish slavery. While not as rich as the actual physical visit to Monticello the website does provide some insightful information as to the mechanism Thomas jefferson had for abolishing slavery. From that site:

            “He thought that white Americans and enslaved blacks constituted two “separate nations” who could not live together peacefully in the same country. Jefferson’s belief that blacks were racially inferior and “as incapable as children,” coupled with slaves’ presumed resentment of their former owners, made their removal from the United States an integral part of Jefferson’s emancipation scheme.”

            You may point out that I rant immaturely and I’ll happily grant you that. It’s my free will. I’ll toss the concept right back to you as well. You come on in my opinion with such arrogance when you make this statement: “Go to Monticello in Virginia and they will show you where Thomas Jefferson kept his slaves.” instead of asking me if I have ever been there and if not perhaps I should to enhance my insights. There are a lot of people that haven’t been to Monticello and yet i am sure they are well versed with Thomas Jefferson, so in my opinion there are other viable alternatives.

            So not only am I pointing out that you are ranting just as immaturely as I am, I am suggesting a way to move away from it, and it doesn’t involve taking a trip to Monticello.

            Enjoy your day.

    2. I’m sure that in 1776 you would have been putting your life and all you possessed in peril in order to create a new nation. Too bad the Founding Fathers didn’t have the courage, integrity and morals of an awesome individual such as yourself and our current President.

      1. There is a lot of speculation that I won’t address but I will say that I do have admiration for the ideals of the founding fathers of America along with many others who promote humanitarian values.

        I’m certainly in agreement about your statement regarding your current (and previous) presidents.

  4. Those of us who have worked in Industrial Design understand that it is a way of life; a way to use technology to make the World a better, more sensible place to live. We understand that design is not decoration; it is integrity. Form follows function. Less is more. Automobile companies do not employ designers. They employ stylists. Designers seek the ideal. They are philosophers of form.

  5. I disagree about no other company having design courage. Tesla and SpaceX both in their way are incrementally breaking the design molds of their respective industries.

    But these companies are far and few between and apparently it requires a very strong leader to push power down to the people who can actually rethink products.

    1. It is not that other companies don’t have good design ideas. It is whether they are led by design.

      At a company I worked at I complained to my manager that the company didn’t care about customers. He disagreed saying that the CEO often said publicly that customers are important and that customers come first. I agreed that the CEO spoke that way but in practice factories were incentivized to save money, not to make customers happy. Shipments were delayed, quality was not great, but the factory got a bonus because they cut expenses.

      Companies can speak nicely about design, quality, customer satisfaction, etc. It is important to see what they actually do in practice. Christensen has asserted that US companies have a kind of obsession with profitability from quarter to quarter at the expense of every other goal. Presumably Apple is different in that they have the primary goal of making excellent products and they feel that profits will follow.

      1. I think you are right.

        I worked with a company from the time they were a startup and very focused on long term goals until a couple decades later they literally penny and time pinched their ability to innovate into the ground.

        Now they wonder why industry is passing them by, but are responding by doubling down on being “responsible” with their resources, as apposed to focusing on achieving anything. They spend more time vetting plans before doing one thing than it would take to try ten things and pick the best. Seems like an easy mistake to avoid to me, but apparently its not.

  6. Simple. The key is Steve Jobs and not Apple. He selected the team put them together to work and directed them long and hard enough, on the specific environment he envisioned to create superior competing products under the Apple name. Tim Cook and Jony Ivy are still today part of SJ’s creation, they haven’t created a new company or a revolutionary product with their own formula yet. I don’t think this Apple company is different from the one Steve Jobs developed to give the big credit to Apple or to anyone. In fact, I think and also fear that if Apple gets away from what Steve Jobs created it will become just another company.

    1. jecastej — you are on the money. Apple has NOT demonstrated design courage. Jobs did so consistently.

      During his exile from the company, it very quickly abandoned his methods, and paid dearly for it. Whether Apple has managed to incorporate Jobs’s principles into its company DNA is still to be determined.

    2. In fact, I’ll go you one further and say that if Apple doesn’t manage to hold on to the Jobs doctrine, it could become a VERY DANGEROUS FORCE in economics. The amount of cash they wield could allow them to be a much worse business actor than Microsoft ever was. ::shudder::

  7. Apple’s most apt slogan is also it’s greatest advice to other companies — think different. Don’t try to copy Apple, or replicate the conditions of the company. Instead, find what you are. Do your own thing, and you will succeed far more than if you live under a shadow.

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