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Jony Ive: A retrospective

Apple has announced that Sir Jony Ive, its chief design officer and creative guru for almost 30 years, is set to leave the company later this year. No more will Ive's soothing Essex twang infuse Apple's product announcement videos with an ineffable sense of charm.

Ive will be establishing his own independent design company, but Apple will be the new firm's first client, allowing Ive to still have a hand in the company's product design. He will be succeeded within Apple by Alan Dye, vice president of Human Interface Design, and Evans Hankey, vice president of Industrial Design, who will both report directly to Apple COO Jeff Williams.

"After nearly 30 years and countless projects, I am most proud of the lasting work we have done to create a design team, process and culture at Apple that is without peer. Today it is stronger, more vibrant and more talented than at any point in Apple's history," Ive said.

"The team will certainly thrive under the excellent leadership of Evans, Alan and Jeff, who have been among my closest collaborators. I have the utmost confidence in my designer colleagues at Apple, who remain my closest friends, and I look forward to working with them for many years to come."

Ive has had an inarguably outsized impact on the modern world and joins the ranks of individuals like Bill Gates, Tim Berners Lee and Apple's own Steve Jobs who have been singularly responsible for vast paradigm shifts - not just within the world of technology, but society as a whole.

This may seem like hyperbole, but Ive's career at Apple has had a ripple effect that has forever changed the way we use technology and the role that it plays in our lives. Looking back at some of his biggest products, the impact that his designs have had on society become apparent.

iMac

The original iMac, first revealed in 1998, was the first product Ive ever designed. It was also a turning point for Apple. Featuring a rounded, cheery looking design and a brightly coloured semi-translucent plastic shell, it stood in stark contrast to the square, beige, utilitarian Windows PCs that would continue to be the norm for years afterwards.

It was instrumental in demonstrating that home computers weren't just for office workers who wanted to edit spreadsheets at the weekend. Clever and thoughtful touches like the built-in carrying handle ensured that the iMac felt accessible to the average person - a trend that would continue throughout Ive's career.

iPod

Everyone remembers the iconic 'dancing silhouette' marketing campaign that Apple launched the original iPod with, but the iPod itself was a stroke of genius. The click-wheel navigation (borrowed from the classic Braun T3 pocket radio) made it not just instantly distinctive, but also easy and intuitive to use.

Combined with an attractive minimalist aesthetic and a durable aluminium frame, the iPod became a staple for on-the-go music-lovers. Through iTunes, it also opened up the world of podcasting to many more people, helping spawn an industry that's expected to generate $1 billion a year by 2021.

iPhone

This device is Ive's crowning achievement. A huge gamble at the time, the device did away with physical buttons almost entirely, torpedoing conventional phone design at a stroke. By this point, most people owned a phone, but it was largely a thing of necessity. With the iPhone, Ive turned something that had been little more than a tool into an object of desire.

By making the iPhone something that everyone wanted not only to own but to use, Ive kickstarted the smartphone revolution. With touchscreen smartphones firmly in the mainstream, increasing numbers of apps were developed to accommodate them. Fast forward to today, and our phone is the one piece of technology around which virtually our whole life revolves - thanks in no small part to Ive.

MacBook Air

Throughout Ive's career, there has been a consistent pattern of taking something functional and turning it into a work of art. This was true of the iMac and the iPhone, and so it was with the MacBook Air. When it launched in 2008, laptops were bulky, expensive and usually finished in shiny, cheap-looking plastic; the Air, by comparison, was a revelation.

Clad in sleek aluminium with an almost unbelievably thin chassis, it was cooler than a glacier wearing sunglasses. Cool enough, in fact, that people overlooked its technical limitations enough to make it the go-to laptop for students and workers alike. Despite not significantly changing its design until last year, it's been one of the most popular laptop brands around for more than a decade and has influenced virtually every other manufacturer to adopt the same design language.

iPad

Like most of Ive's products, the iPad has become singularly ubiquitous, popular with everyone from children and grandparents to designers and executives. It's the gold standard for balancing simplicity and ease-of-use with powerful functionality, which has been Apple (and Ive's) governing ethos since the start of its golden age in the late 1990s.

In some ways, the iPad was almost too well-designed; after a few years, sales began to plateau, and we would argue that the reason for this is that they're so well-made that they simply don't need to be replaced all that often. Unless you're using them for demanding graphic design work, even an iPad that's three or four years old will still be perfectly capable of doing what most users need.

...and then there's this

In the interests of balance, it's worth mentioning that not all of Ive's products have been shining examples of design genius. In particular, the Magic Mouse had one gigantic obvious flaw in it - the charging port was on the underside of the device, meaning that you couldn't use it while it was being charged, as it had to be flipped over. A clanger for the ages, which just proves that even the most influential among us are still prone to the occasional gaffe.

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