Meet the Man Who Is Designing Apple's First-Ever Piece of Jewelry

Jonathan Ive, the head of design at Apple, is reportedly designing a watch. But will we want to wear it?
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Jonathan Ive, the head of design at Apple, is reportedly designing a watch. But will we want to wear it?
Jony Ive at Burberry's Spring 2013 runway show last year. Photo: Getty

Jony Ive at Burberry's Spring 2013 runway show last year. Photo: Getty

Who reading this doesn't own an Apple computer? Or an iPad? Or an iPhone? Or an iPod? Probably no one. And we love our Apple products because, beyond working better than pretty much everything else on the market, they look great, right?

That slick design, from the candy-colored iMacs to today's slim aluminum Macbook Airs, is in great part thanks to Jonathan Ive, who for years ran industrial design at Apple. Ive, a Brit, is undoubtedly one of the greatest industrial designers to ever live, and that's not an exaggeration. His work is already displayed in museums, and has influenced the look and feel of millions of other products.

While Ive's talent in designing tangible objects is obvious, he doesn't have much experience with software (ie, what you see on your laptop or phone screen). Yet in October 2012, Apple's head of software, Scott Forstall--aka the guy who oversaw the look and feel of all of your iPhone app icons, as well as the terrible Apple Maps system--was fired and replaced with Ive, giving him control of what the machines look like inside-and-out. Last week, Ive's first work as a software designer—a re-imagining of our iPhone screen—debuted at an Apple conference in San Francisco. The screen is flamboyantly bright and dynamic: pink, blue and purple are used generously. That use of color—and the drastic change in the look of the icons, as well as a skinny version of Helvetica, Apple's font of choice for years—has received mixed reviews. Design criticism is typical in the tech world, but not typical for Apple. Personally, I think that if you get rid of the weird, bubbly, Disney-looking background, it's not terrible, and that our eyes will eventually grow to love it. Although it is pretty amusing to look through Jony Ive Redesigns Things, a Tumblr founded by a 26-year-old graphic designer who is collecting images redesigned in Ive's slightly silly aesthetic--everything from Star Wars' logo to Marlboro Lights has been given the Jony Ive treatment.

Ive's iPhone screen design

Ive's iPhone screen design

But it's not the iPhone that we should be talking about.

You see, the next product Apple is going to release—at least according to multiple reports—is a watch in the same vein of the Nike Fuel Band. So, for all intents and purposes, a piece of jewelry. Something you actually wear, not just stick in your pocket. And regardless of what you think of Ive's industrial design prowess, or his lack of software finesse, what is important with this one is his taste in clothes.

Ive certainly has a look. He favors Clarks' Wallabee style chukka, a favorite of hipsters in the early aughts, blue t-shirts, and denim button downs (not chambray button downs--denim button downs). His most fashion-conscious look was a striped boating sweater worn to Burberry's Spring 2013 runway show. But does he have enough style prowess to design something as classic as a Timex? Or a Cartier Love bracelet? Something virtually everyone will be happy wearing?

You have to remember, Ive worked under Steve Jobs for most of his career. And Jobs, while not a fashion plate, had a distinct sense of style. As mentioned again and again in the press, Jobs’ uniform consisted of a black Issey Miyake mock turtleneck, standard Levi's dad jeans and grey New Balance sneakers. Really, he didn't look much different than many male fashion designers, who tend to wear the same outfit day-in and day-out. The kind of person you'd imagine designing a sleek-and-easy-to-wear piece of jewelry. It'll be interesting to see whether or not Ive can pull it off.