Jobs’s taste for merciless criticism was notorious; Ive recalled that, years ago, after seeing colleagues crushed, he protested. Jobs replied, “Why would you be vague?,” arguing that ambiguity was a form of selfishness: “You don’t care about how they feel! You’re being vain, you want them to like you.” Ive was furious, but came to agree. “It’s really demeaning to think that, in this deep desire to be liked, you’ve compromised giving clear, unambiguous feedback,” he said. He lamented that there were “so many anecdotes” about Jobs’s acerbity: “His intention, and motivation, wasn’t to be hurtful.”
Your one #longread today should be the New Yorker’s profile of Jonathan Ive by Ian Parker. This anecdote resonated with me from the time I (poorly) did design for a living, and how much patience and stoicism are part of the job when working with a deciding stakeholder, often known as a client:
Bob Mansfield, a former senior hardware engineer at Apple, who is now semi-retired, recently described the pique that some colleagues felt about Ive’s privileged access. As he put it, “There’s always going to be someone vying for Dad’s attention.” But Mansfield was grateful for Ive’s cool handling of a C.E.O. who was “not the easiest guy to please.” Mansfield’s view was “Jony puts up with a lot, and, as a result of him doing it, people like me don’t have to.”
This also made me giggle.
Brunner is proud of the Beats brand, but it took him time to adjust to a design rhythm set as if for a sneaker company: “Originally, I hated it—‘Let’s do a version in the L.A. Lakers’ colors!’ ” He laughed. “ ‘Great. Purple and yellow. Fantastic.’ ”
3 replies on “Jonathan Ive Profile”
I really like the quote about merciless criticism. It’s so much like online dating now. No one wants to be honest and just say they aren’t interested. Instead they play games or ignore people. The truth would be easier on the other person, rather than feeling rejected, ignored, etc. But, giving the truth isn’t easy and it is selfish, protecting your own feelings and wanting people to like you. I never thought of criticism as being the same thing, but it is. It’s the very reason it is hard to be honest when you know you don’t have all good news.
Matt, thanks for sharing. Although interesting, I think it focuses too much in the personal level and the role of Ive as the new Jobs. I’m more interested in hearing how that group of designers work with each other and how they solve the tensions regarding leadership, creativity, etc. Have you read Creativity by Ed Catmull? How that compares to Apple experience (or even better: to yours with automattic!!) would be a very interesting story to read, indeed.
There is something to be said for people who take up the DOTS role (Deflector of the Shit!) as Ive appears to have done. Interesting view that being “nice” is actually selfish and yes, have to agree. But being truthful doesn’t aways have to be brutal!