Stephen Hawking Fellowship: Apple’s Jony Ive explains how ‘teetering towards the absurd’ helped him design the iPhone

“The Cambridge Union is used for impassioned debates. The hall is divided in two, with rows of seats facing each other, adversarially,” David Phelan writes for The Independent. “But the first recipient of the Stephen Hawking Fellowship, apart from the professor himself who gave the initial Fellowship speech last year, was anything but combative.”

“Sir Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer at Apple, was awarded the fellowship because he fulfilled its twin criteria, as explained by Charles Connor, President of the Cambridge Union for the Michalemas term,” Phelan writes. “Connor said Ive showed flair in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields and the ability to communicate complex ideas in a way to excite the imagination.”

Jonathan Ive, Apple Chief Design Officer
Jonathan Ive, Apple Chief Design Officer
“Although he had worried that he was technologically inept, his first encounters with an Apple Mac changed everything,” Phelan writes. “‘With the Mac, in 1988, I think I learned two things. Firstly, I could actually use it. I loved using it and it became a very powerful tool that helped me design and create. Secondly, and I think this is in some ways a rather embarrassing admission because this was at the end of four years of studying design, I realised that what you make represents who you are. It stands testament to your values and your preoccupations, and using the Mac I sensed a clear and direct connection with the people who actually created the Macintosh. For the first time, I remember being moved by obvious humanity and care beyond just the functional imperative.’ This, he said, led to him finding out more about the people at Apple and moving to California in 1992 to join the team.”

Phelan writes, “He also described a paradox in the way he works which, he says, almost becomes absurd…”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Congratulations, Jony Ive, the first recipient of the Stephen Hawking Fellowship!

As an aside, it’s interesting, isn’t it, when we struggle with technology, we assume the issue is actually with us. If you eat something that tastes dreadful, you don’t assume that the issue is with you. I just thought I’d mention that. – Jony Ive, November 19, 2017

There’s a nice exposition of the difference between those who settle for Windows/Android as opposed to those who of us who use Macintosh/iOS.

Sir Jony Ive awarded 2018 Stephen Hawking fellowship – September 27, 2018
Royal College of Art in London appoints Apple’s Jony Ive as its Chancellor – May 25, 2017
Jony Ive is the most powerful person at Apple – December 12, 2014
Jony Ive hasn’t been given too much power at Apple – because he’s always had it – February 5, 2013
Steve Jobs left design chief Jonathan Ive ‘more operational power’ than anyone else at Apple – October 21, 2011


    1. If you ask me, this guy is being way too glorified and getting way too much credit..
      sure i dont deny there some real nice designs here and there.
      But beyond that ..
      All one has to do is look at some of the absolute amateurish F-UPS in the last few years both in estetic design and ergonomics.

      Stating with the Igore battery case.. to iphone on/off buttons and ios ui ergonomics, to apple pencil and everything about it ( except the latency) , the mac pro( mind freaking buggeling ) , the whole dongle mess.
      And the whole BS of Clutter FREE. It is not clutter free.. its CLUTTER SCATTER. .. its parallel to taking your garbage out of your home and dumping it on the sidewalk right at your door. ….

      Too many issues..yet all shrowded by eloquent elitist talk and the B accent.


      1. This is why I miss Steve.
        He had the best in designs from Johnny Ive, but he also had final say.

        He had the best in logistics and finance with Tim Cook, but he had control over him.

        He also had the best in store layouts (for that time, they’re tiring now), software development (no one seems to care anymore) and advertising (which is old and stale now).

        Apple has turned into a henhouse that produces egos instead of eggs (because “that’s someone else’s job”).

        Time to get a rooster to sort out the pecking order….

  1. “There’s a nice exposition of the difference between those who settle for Windows/Android as opposed to those who of us who use Macintosh/iOS.”

    Yeah – those of us who use Macintosh/iOS have MUCH more money! At least, we did till we started buying Apple stuff…

    1. Exactly right. Apple is certainly not the people’s computer for the masses and it has been this way as long as I can remember. But NOW all are overpriced with missing features, the dongle tax and aimed at elite customers that could not care less except for status and fashion. The thinness absurdity and pricing in the quest for higher profits it certainly feels like Apple is leaving core customers behind…

      1. “aimed at elite customers that could not care less except for status and fashion. The thinness absurdity and pricing”

        Partially true, sometimes you get the feeling that Sir Jony designs items with the highest priority being ” how will it look if perchance I am chosen to be photographed walking down the street to the latest hip coffee shop. I want to look trendy at all costs, I am desperate to look good carrying it.

        True in many cases, after all who chooses to shoot an ad with a Windows laptop or a generic phone as a prop”?

        Having said that; my only loyalty to Apple now is for purely practical reasons; I make part of my living using 3rd party devloper apps for HTML5 animation, web design, many graphical functions. Probably 2 dozen apps, not going to count. In that area, the 3rd party apps have never been better since 1988 when I started. The Windows counterparts are not even close.

        This is odd because Windows 10 has fewer bugs than OSX even though the inteface is just weird and just as illogical as always. I have to be on Windows 10 at times for testing purposes. OSX interface is more logical to use, but is more buggy. I think they try to do to many things without adequate testing.

        The Apple designed apps, Pages, etc are buggy. Without the 3rd party designed apps that I use in my work, I would be gone. There are some great 3rd party app developers out there who are keeping me happier than ever. (Many of them are ex-Apple employees, what does that tell you?)

        Sir Jony is probably not even aware of those apps. He is in the “cloud”

  2. “, I realised that what you make represents who you are. It stands testament to your values and your preoccupations”

    So says the guy who designed a ridiculously absurd diamond ring.

    Go be dead weight somewhere else Ive. Take Eddy Cue with you.

    I’m tired of AAPL being relentlessly b!tchslapped by the market, down massively again today, just like yesterday.

  3. I’ve been watching and occasionally contributing here over the past 15 years. It’s amazing how negative this site has become towards any apple news. We all used to be excited by the early anouncments (ipod, ipad, itunes, mac) and took pride in thinking different. Now all we see to be is criticism of any apple products and leadership. Perhaps things at apple are now really that bad. Or perhaps it’s the sense of user entitlement that stinks.

    1. You are spot on, Apple has hardly excited us in recent years so some gloom is certainly understandable, but it gets depressing when people whinge more because the share price has gone down rather than because of the products lack of wow factor. And even in that regard if Apple does produce something great it will get just the same negative response as when they sell mundane upgrades at higher prices. Like apple the whinging seems to have hit a somewhat boring plateau too.

      By the way some of us are from a period when Macs (the only product once) were rather more expensive than the opposition than they are now, so it does bring a smile to my face when I hear the price whinges in particular, even if there is some credibility in them.

      1. ” but it gets depressing when people whinge more because the share price has gone down rather than because of the products lack of wow factor.”

        Uh…the two are inextricably connected.

        1. Is that so, Mr. Von Tink? How can you logically support that assertion when AAPL has been on a rising trend for a long time? Are you saying that a bunch of people suddenly and simultaneously came to the conclusion that Apple products lack “wow factor” several weeks ago? I hope that you realize that most of the trading volume in AAPL is controlled by a relatively small group of institutional investors. As a result, trading in AAPL is not a reliable indicator of general consumer sentiment regarding the “wow factor” of AAPL products. Furthermore, it strains credibility to believe that these people suddenly lost confidence in Apple products given the positive reception of recent product releases – iPads, Macs, Apple Watch 4, etc.

          No, Mr. Von Tink. The much more likely and credible conclusion is that this is simply the reflection of profit-taking and risk-aversion after a long and substantial period of AAPL growth combined with a bit of a tantrum over losing insight into Apple unit sales going forward. If Apple performs as I anticipate in the current financial quarter, then AAPL will take a jump upwards early in CY2019.

      2. Watching several business reports this morning on cable news they attributed the -500 market drop at the time to Apple and other tech companies. Most of the reporting focused on Apple for two reasons.

        Obviously the decision to no longer report product sales numbers, but the bulk of the reporting focused on projections next year for Apple. Saying most sales forecasts will be flat or decline for Apple is “uncharacteristic for the company.” Certainly as others pointed out, others factors are in play as well, but above not a reporting take I have heard before.

        To all the Apple apologists and blind fanboys here today, the WHINING is pointless, get real and wishing for the same golden past does not exist. Stop trying to fight it and simply accept reality. When I started posting here in the very early days of MDN my posts were 95% positive, well, today they are mostly critical under pipeline for his lack of leadership and what he has BOTH done, and not done for Apple products. Any CEO with a brain and a degree can ride first class on the same iPhone gravy train and unleash Jony to work on door knobs, diamond rings and coffee table books, while ignoring the 5+ year-old Mac Pro. Waste of talent and company resources up to this point the last few years. Now with the stock market pressure and declining phone sales numbers I fear it will get worse before it gets better…

    2. I agree, \In. It has gotten to the point where I take long breaks from MDN to get away from the griping, rigid mindsets, and politicrap in order to reset my perspective.

      Far too many people have lost the thrill of Apple advancements in design and functionality, focusing only on the negatives and complaining incessantly.

      I am not happy about every decision that Apple has made, either. But I still find a lot about which to be happy and I still see a bright and hopeful future for Apple. The magic of Steve Jobs may be history, but Apple is striving to keep his legacy alive and evolving. I choose to try to focus on the positives while letting Apple know when I feel that there are issues that need to be addressed.

      1. “I am not happy about every decision that Apple has made, either.”

        Granted I have not read all your posts, but don’t recall one Apple decision you were unhappy about. Very interested to hear your top ten, top five or at the very least, the BIG ONE.

        “I choose to try to focus on the positives while letting Apple know when I feel that there are issues that need to be addressed.”

        Very interested to hear some of the issues you believe needs to be addressed. Again, do not recall them here. Seriously, would like to know…

    3. There are swarms of entitlement weenies aka #Basement_CEOs™️ here now, not one of whom seem to understand anything about…well…anything at all.
      But they are especially good at whingeing like the true no hope losers they appear to be. Weird life choice to say the least.
      Meanwhile Apple will continue in quixotic fashion to defy and totally ignore the ‘irrelevant s’.
      Go Apple and Tim Cook!

      1. Yes, in opposite directions please. The sooner Cook is separated from Apple the sooner they can rebuild the massive gaps in Apple’s overpriced lineups, with continuous innovation instead of waiting 6 years between product improvements.

  4. I really don’t know how Ive contributed to the “design” of Apple products, except we know he was one of the chummy buddies in early days of Apple. I seem to remember that he ran out of his role in Apple and started sticking his nose in the software development (iOS 7 era, was it?), and things just started going down ever since.
    I do not want to put too much weight on cult worshipping of Steve Jobs with overly flattering remarks but there is no question that he was the Apple, and Apple was Jobs.
    Steve was a visionary, capable of seeing things in a way that others could not. He said many philosophical things that Tim Cook at al is totally not capable of, except grandstanding on social issues.
    One of the things Jobs had said was “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” This was the essence of Apple but this spirit is totally missing or lost in today’s Apple, that become a relentless profit seeker with no regard to us, consumers. Apple we knew, admired and enjoyed was lost. Apple is now a different company and those few executives of yesteryears have been so busy with self-promotion and self-admiration.
    Let’s hope a more capable and exciting CEO, like the second coming of SJ might miraculously appear soon.

    1. Well noted. Pipeline isn’t Steve Jobs. That was going to be the case whoever took over after Steve passed. Sadly, we did not know how utterly incapable Pipeline was at leading the world’s greatest tech company as he took the helm. We trusted Steve and now it has been proven beyond any doubt that Pipeline is simply out of his league. Pipeline has allowed the Mac, macOS, and most of Apple software to rot away.

      Steve created Aperture. Pipeline killed it.

      Steve created the Apple wireless ecosystem. Pipeline killed it.

      Steve created the Mac Pro. Pipeline killed it.

      And on and on and on and on. Pipeline, with all of Apple’s resources, cannot even keep existing products alive. It is beyond Pipeline’s ability.

      Why Apple’s board allowed Pipeline to do so much damage to Apple is inexplicable. They are complicit in all of Pipeline’s reckless damage.

      Apple users used to be a very positive thinking group. All around the Apple forums I visit, including MDN, are stuffed with people who have nothing but utter contempt for Pipeline. And for Phill Shiller, and FFS for Eddy Cue.

      These cretinous morons have severely damaged Apple. They are doing nothing but riding Steve Jobs coattails, right into the ground.

      This will be the legacy of Pipeline.

      AAPL has fallen a STAGGERING -$54 in just a month. And it is STILL dropping.

      That is the legacy of Pipeline.

      Investors are not stupid. They know that Apple is run by a completely visionless desk jockey. They know that Pipline cannot innovate even 1% as well as Steve Jobs.

      Pipline is Apple’s Steve Ballmer.

      Who will be Apple’s Satya Nadella?

  5. “Who will be Apple’s Satya Nadella?”

    Steve Jobs was forced out and returned to lead Apple.
    Scott Forstall was forced out and could easily return to lead Apple.

    Scott is the closest personality to Steve and a TRUE tech guy, not a desk jockey from all I read.

    First order of business, put Mr. Arrogant Accolades Sir Jony on a short lease. Focus him to fix the mistakes and improve all products and features customers enjoyed in the past and have been grumbling and clamoring for years under pipeline…

    1. One of the first things that Mr.Cook did was the swift firing of Scott Forstall. The reason was that Scott’s kept conflicting with others. Really? When Steve was alive, we’ve never heard such story. I read and watched articles and video clips that showed Steve Jobs was very much valuing Scott. I am sure Cook felt threatened by forward thinking guy with the thorough technical capability which was required to look ahead and see what should be done. Scott, unfortunately, was considered a threat to the comfy chummy club of old timers. It was really a swift firing before anybody could even digest its significance. I always thought that Tim Cook was a very ruthless and petty person. Look how he shamelessly milk very loyal customers, his precious captive market. We are not his profit centre. We are willing to work with him if he treats us fairly in return. Look how Phil Schiller and/or Craig Federighi have been so quiet. I think they are under the tight grip of Cook and virtually silenced.

      1. Most convincing, KenT. I suspected much the same when it went down forcing out a valuable legacy employee for a specious reason (Apple Maps). Scott Forstall has the tech chops and years of experience under Steve that Pipeline can only dream about. Threatened is the only logical reason. Wikipedia: “it had been reported that Forstall was trying to gather power to challenge Cook.”

        A recent MDN article quoted a former employee as he described the highly politicized atmosphere inside Apple under Cook. Constructive criticism valued by Steve is now out the window and treated unfavorably. That supports your comment as a “ruthless” leader on the inside and mild mannered face on the outside.

        Reported Scott butted heads with Jony over issues such as FLAT iOS7 when Ive was promoted to SVP of design. Before that for years Steve and Scott were working together as the Apple visual gurus. So yes, Jobs always held him in the highest regard. More on Jony from Wikipedia: “Forstall had such a poor relationship with Ive and Mansfield that he could not be in a meeting with them unless Cook mediated; reportedly, Forstall and Ive did not cooperate at any level.” Scott knew the handwriting was on the wall as the power shift commenced. Also: “Forstall’s skeuomorphic design style, strongly advocated by former CEO Steve Jobs, was reported to have also been controversial and divided the Apple design team.” Translation: abstractionist Ive did not like it and won.

        Early career resume from Wikipedia: “Forstall joined Steve Jobs’s NeXT in 1992 and stayed when it was purchased by Apple in 1997. Forstall was then placed in charge of designing user interfaces for a reinvigorated Macintosh line. In 2000, Forstall became a leading designer of the Mac’s new Aqua user interface, known for its water-themed visual cues such as translucent icons and reflections, making him a rising star in the company.”

        Other career highlights:
        * Supervised the creation of the Safari web browser
        * Led the iPod team
        * Won fierce competition to create iOS
        * Responsible for creating a software developer’s kit for programmers to build iPhone apps
        * 2006 on responsible for Mac OS X releases
        * Took the stage launching the iPhone 4S to demonstrate first of a kind Siri

        Wikipedia: “Forstall was very close to and referred to as a mini-Steve Jobs, so Jobs’ death left Forstall without a protector. Forstall was also referred to as the CEO-in-waiting by Fortune magazine and the book Inside Apple (written by Adam Lashinsky), a profile that made him unpopular at Apple.” Not a surprise. Power struggles are common in every workplace. Today, you don’t need a legitimate reason to force someone out to protect your own arse and your political buddies. Talent and experience has nothing to do with it if your manager is threatened.

        No one on planet Earth is more qualified for Apple CEO. May the second prodigal son return and lead Apple higher…

        1. Yes, this describes the whole situation surrounding the firing of Scott. I believe Scott did not at all appreciate Ive’s ability as a designer and thought Ive was just a free rider on the gravy train without any appreciable contribution. A designer in Apple requires forward thinking with deep technical knowledge, going far beyond the superficial/cosmetic contour design that Ive also failed to impress the consumer. Scott was far more capable and highly qualified designer as he had a thorough technical understanding of how technology (and Apple) worked, which inevitably crashed with Ive, the thinning draftman. Scott knew Ive was excessively overrated (knighted, coffee table book and diamond ring, chair selection in the Space Ship etc etc) and knew his days were gone. I am sure he knew Ive was rather an obstacle than contribution.
          Yes, people liked or disliked the skeuomorphism but it was at least unique, and any problem would have been ironed out in due course. I also believe Steve appointed Cook as a transitional caretaker to handle any possible financial waves or turmoil just in case, but must have been thinking Scott being the true torch carrier of Apple’s DNA and true legacy. But, unfortunately for us, a chummy and super comfy circle of old timers won to preserve their place.
          Oh, well… Let’s hope Tim Cook would fade out soon. His useful days are also gone.

          1. Thanks. Interesting insight on Forstall clashing with Ive, particularly: “Scott was far more capable and highly qualified designer as he had a thorough technical understanding of how technology (and Apple) worked, which inevitably crashed with Ive, the thinning draftman.” Indeed, says it ALL.

            Another very interesting point: “Cook as a transitional caretaker…” Yes, Forstall was the obvious heir apparent and has more talent and understanding than Cook and Ive COMBINED. Unfortunately, that was a problem for the cabal of Apple leadership that did not appreciate and were jealous of Scott’s talent.

            Recall reading a Pulitzer Prize winner talking about workplaces in general. The main point was never worry about talented people like yourself, worry about the mediocre status quo always doing anything to protect their jobs. Sad the “super comfy circle of old timers won to preserve their place,” while customers have been losing for years.

            I’m with you. All we can hope for is the board removes Cook as they removed Amelio and paved the way for Jobs second coming. If history repeats, pave the way for the second coming of Forstall. Fingers crossed and keep the faith…

  6. It’s not the Apple of yesterday only in one aspect. Steve’s ability to enthrall an audience has yet to be replaced. The iWatch, AirPod and HomePod are every bit as magical as those that came before. Product wise they’re at the top of their game which may or may not be the one others think they should be playing.

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