The award of a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List to Apple Computer head designer Jonathan Ive is great news. For, while Ive is undoubtedly worthy of the accolade – and has won just about every design gong in recent years, from the 2005 D&AD President’s Award to the RSA Medal – design itself is also recognised here.
At 38, Ive has done more than any other UK designer to capture the hearts and minds of politicians, budding designers, the media and consumers. He is up there with the best, yet, unlike ‘rock star’ counterparts, such as footballer David Beckham and the odd celebrity chef, he does not court publicity. He prefers to get on quietly with the job of designing, inspiring his creative team and his audience in the process, through the sheer quality of his work.
He does not run his own business, though, as senior vice-president of design, he has considerable clout at Apple. He does not do ‘good works’ within the design industry as many honours-seekers might, other than by setting a fantastic example that a culture of innovation can achieve great results.
Somehow, though, he has caught the attention of the politicians – something few pure designers have done. He was, for example, part of the posse sent to bed in the (we hope) influential Cox Review with the Treasury last month.
Ironically, Ive hasn’t worked for a British company for much of his career. The genius of his work has wooed his peers regardless, but could it be the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome that has bound UK officialdom to him? More likely it is Apple’s global success, attributed unashamedly to design, especially now that Ive is outsourcing manufacturing to China.
Britain needs homegrown talents like Ive to show the way, albeit from abroad. His latest honour should inspire UK companies and boost the standing of in-house design. We hope it will encourage companies to see design as a way of really making a difference.
Lynda Relph-Knight, editor