Jony Ive: The story of the Apple Pencil

“Reinventing an object billions of people across the world know and use every day is no mean feat. The humble pencil has been around for thousands of years, with its origins in the discovery of graphite deposits in Borrowdale in Cumberland circa 1564,” Rhiannon Williams reports for The Telegraph. ”
The 19th century’s industrial revolution witnessed the foundation of some of the world’s best-known pencil companies, including Faber-Castell and Steadtler, helping people to express their innermost thoughts on paper. Then again, if anyone is qualified to reimagine the ways in which we communicate, it’s Jony Ive.”

“Ive and his secretive team of designers hidden away in Apple’s Californian headquarters have created the company’s first tablet stylus, the Apple Pencil. It’s a companion accessory to the supersized iPad Pro, a giant 12.9-inch iPad which goes on sale this week,” Williams reports. “‘We hoped if you are used to spending a lot of time using paintbrushes, pencils and pens, this will feel like a more natural extension of that experience – that it will feel familiar,’ he says, carefully. ‘To achieve that degree of very simple, natural behaviour, was a significant technological challenge.'”

Apple Pencil is “a delicate white plastic device with a removable rubber sensor-filled tip for detecting the amount of pressure you’re applying to the screen and varying the weight of the line it draws accordingly, including a bold, hard mark when pressing hard on the direct tip, and a faint, fanned effect when brushed on its side, just as a physical pencil would,” Williams reports. “Ive hopes those using the Pencil for the first time are surprised by this, as ‘every other stylus you’ve used is a pretty poor representation of the analogue world.. Many of us in the design team have worked together for 20 plus years. We’ve always drawn in our sketchbooks, and for the first time – despite flirting with some alternatives a couple of years ago – I’m seeing people starting to use the iPad and Apple Pencil. Our personal experience has been that there are definitely affordances and opportunities now that you have a much more natural and intuitive environment to make marks, there are clearly things you can do sketching and writing on the iPad which you could never dream of doing in the analogue world.'”

Williams reports, “In an age when other companies are bending over backwards to reinvent the wheel, Jony Ive has reinvented the pencil.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Earlier today, in response to a mixed iPad Pro review by a keyboard-centric kind of guy, Walt Mossberg, we wrote:

Apple’s Smart Keyboard is an interesting conundrum. Obviously, Apple eschewed physical keyboards with iOS and Muti-Touch. Is it possible that when asked to design a physical keyboard for iPad after all these years, Jony Ive & Co. looked at the project with disdain and therefore subconsciously did not put full effort into its design?

Notice that the Apple Pencil is universally lauded, while the Apple Smart Keyboard earns barely a “meh.” Well, just look at who designed them: Designers. Who’d better to put maximum effort into perfecting a drawing implement while looking at designing “yet another keyboard” as a chore? It’s not difficult to imagine Apple’s top designers being excited to work on Apple Pencil while passing the “boring” keyboard down the line to lesser ranked team members.

15 Comments

    1. No. The 20th. Did have a nice surprise with the iPad though. When I ordered it said delivers on the 16th. I tried to change the shipping date but I couldn’t, and they didn’t ask me what kind of shipping I wanted to pay for.

      I did an online chat. Some person said, “Hello. I am Centennial. May I know your full name please.” I typed, “My name is “Orthogonal Quadraplex.” Centennial responded, “Huh?” I asked if I could upgrade my shipping. Centennial said no.

      Then I got my notice in email, and i t said the tablet will be here tomorrow.

  1. I draw and write everyday, often for many hours, with a pencil. I am beyond excited to get the new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil I ordered very early this morning. I have high hopes that they will replace pencil and paper for much of the time, though I will still love a nice sketchbook and pencil.

    One of the coolest products for my work style is the handwriting keyboard, such as offered by MyScript (Which is currently broken due to lack of compatibility with iOS 9). I can write fast, nearly as fast as I can type, so for the iPad Pro with a Pencil, I see no need for a physical keyboard. MyScript also offers several tools for editing with a stylus that can save tons of time. I am hoping they will quickly update their app for Pencil support, and, obviously, iOS 9. I expect that they will soon have a lot of competition, so hopefully other handwriting recognition keyboards will be hitting the App Store soon, please. Apple has an old history with handwriting recognition, I sure wish they would make this native to iOS, and double down on the capabilities of the pencil as a creative drawing AND writing device.

  2. How on Earth are they going to keep the screen from getting scratched? I live in New Mexico. In the summer everything is covered with dirt (as in dust). It should be interesting.

    1. Actually their statement on the age of the pencil is sorta correct if clarified. Original ‘pencils’ were charcoal (burned sticks, etc.), sharpened stone, bone, etc. The graphite pencil is a more recent invention, with its origins in the discovery of graphite deposits. But yes, they need to read and edit their copy more carefully.

  3. Why on earth would you not have enough pencils ready with the iPad launch? How retarded is that?

    It’s like opening a steakhouse and they deliver you the steaks, but oh, the grill will be delivered in 4 weeks.

    1. This is just another symptom of a Tim “the steward” Cook’s Apple. No attention to detail. Steve took a lifetime to build Apple’s reputation, Tim takes only a few years to destroy it. The sooner him and Ive are fired, the better.

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